27 Dec 2010

New measles out-break in Zimbabwe kills 70 more children in two weeks, unvaccinated sect kids at risk

The Herald - Zimbabwe September 23, 2010

Measles outbreak claims 70

By Paidamoyo Chipunza

A suspected fresh measles outbreak has hit some parts of the country, reportedly killing about 70 children mainly from apostolic sects over a two-week period.

Health officials yesterday confirmed that 24 children died of measles in Chiweshe in Mazowe District, while traditional leaders and officials from the district administrator’s office covering some parts of remote Mbire area recorded 40 deaths in Mashonaland Central.

Epidemiology and disease control director in the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare Dr Portia Manangazira yesterday confirmed the outbreaks reported in Mudzerengi Village in Mbire District and the Chiweshe area.

“We noted a significant decline in the measles cases as early as two weeks post campaign (the national immunisation campaign held in May).

“There are, however, areas that have continued to report cases of measles since the start of the outbreak because the communities have continued to evade health authorities.

“The persistent refusal by some segments of society means these closed communities have large numbers of unvaccinated children,” Dr Manangazira said.

She said a number of factors could have contributed to the recurrence of measles, chief among them the general decline in routine immunisation and persistent refusal by some people.

“Of note is the Madida sect of Matabeleland South Province and apostolic sects in Mazowe District of Mashonaland Central who chased away the campaign teams.

“In fact, in these areas by the time of the post-campaign coverage surveys, they were already having outbreaks,” Dr Manangazira said.

She said the provincial medical directorate for Mashona-land Central had already dispatched a team to Mazowe and Mbire to respond to the crisis.

However, Mashonaland Central Governor and Resident Minister Advocate Martin Dinha last Friday expressed disappointment over the health officials’ response to the outbreak.

“We started receiving reports of deaths due to the suspected measles outbreak on (last) Tuesday and the numbers are continuing to grow. These cases were reported through our rural leadership structures and we have since communicated with the relevant ministry (of Health and Child Welfare) but they are responding slowly,” said Adv Dinha.

“I am not happy with the response from the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare to this issue because the community reported that no intervention has so far been done by health officials yet we alerted them of the outbreak,” he said.

The ministry is said to have only responded to the situation this week.

Measles is considered an outbreak when a cluster of five or more suspected cases or at least three confirmed positive cases in a district or health facility within a month have been reported.

Measles is a highly contagious viral respiratory infection that causes high fever, skin rash, running nose, watery eyes and a cough. The disease mainly affects children under the age of five years.

In unvaccinated children, measles can cause severe diarrhoea leading to dehydration, blindness to those with inadequate vitamin A, inflammation of the middle ear, brain damage and death due to pneumonia.

The last wave of measles outbreaks claimed more than 400 children mainly from apostolic sects, prompting Government and its partners to launch a national immunisation campaign.

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