Thirty four children have so far died in the current outbreak of measles that has been ravaging the northern states in the past two months.
State health officials who confirmed the deaths to our correspondents also said over 2,708 children aged between nine months and three years are on admission in hospitals.
Zamfara State recorded the highest number of casualties with 14 deaths. Nine died in Katsina, six in Niger, four in Yobe while a young child died in Kano few hours after he was brought to the hospital.
In Katsina about 1,260 children are infected while the outbreak in Kano doubled to 800 from 400 we reported in Daily Trust yesterday.
Other states with sizable number of infections are Yobe with 361, Zamfara 136, Benue 53, Nasarawa 30, Taraba 5, while Kaduna and Bauchi recorded 18 cases each.
Doctors confirmed there is outbreak in Sokoto but gave no figures while in Kogi unnamed officials told our correspondent the disease is yet to be reported in any hospital.
Even though parents attributed the outbreak of the viral disease to inadequate supply of vaccines which leads to poor routine immunization for children, federal and state officials on the other hand said many parents respond poorly to the immunization drive.
‘Kids not immunized’
In Katsina, Health Commissioner Hussani Yammama confirmed the death of nine children, saying the outbreak affected all the 34 local government areas with 1,260 children so far infected.
He said the refusal of parents to take their children to the healthcare centres for routine immunisation was responsible for the outbreak, but added that government had already taken measures to curb the spread of the disease.
At least 800 children contracted measles in Kano state between January to date, Health Commissioner Abubakar Labaran Yusuf disclosed yesterday. The figure has doubled the one released by the ministry on Monday, which had put the number of patients at 400.
The commissioner, who spoke to Daily Trust by telephone, said the outbreak of the communicable disease was as a result of heat.
In Kaduna, Dr. Iliya Mercy of the Gwamna Awan General Hospital said her interaction with mothers revealed that most of the time they don’t get their children vaccinated for measles at nine months due to non-availability of the vaccine especially at primary health care centres.
“They said that by the time they go on about two or three appointments and they still don’t get the vaccine, they forget about the immunisation,” she said.
Medical director of Rakiya Memorial Hospital in Kaduna Dr. Muhammad Bello said the outbreak has not reached an alarming stage in the state.
For his part, Kaduna State Commissioner of Health, Turaki Kalik, blamed the outbreak on poor routine immunization.
At the King Fahad bin Abdulaziz Women and Children Hospital in Gusau, Zamfara State, medical director Sabitu Magaji Tsafe said measles cases were being received and treated on daily basis.
In Yobe where four children were reported dead, the state epidemologist, Alhaji Bulama Dike, said majority of the infections were as a result of failure on the side of their parents to vaccinate their kids.
He said Potiskum Local Government Area has the highest number of cases with 87 children infected, Tarmuwa has 37, Nengere 33, Bursari 30, Jakusko 29, Bade 27, Fika 25, Fune 24, Gulani 22, Nguru 20, Karasuwa 12, Gaidam 8, Yusufari 6, while Damaturu with the least case of 1 child infected. The four children that died were from Nengere.
In Niger State the Commissioner of Health, Dr Ibrahim Sule, said, “I can confirm that six deaths occurred due to the outbreak of the disease in the state, so far but the situation is under control at the moment.”
Bauchi State Commissioner of Health Dr Muhammed Sani Malami told Daily Trust 18 cases were recorded last week in Dambam local government area.
At the Dalhatu Araf Specialists’ Hospital (DASH) in Lafia, at least 20 cases were recorded last month, according to Chief Medical Director (CMD), Dr. Ahmed Yakubu Ashiki. A medic at the hospital said, “We have many cases coming from schools direct. The children are picking the disease from their mates.”
In Benue State, Director of Public Health in the State Ministry of Health, Dr. Joseph Kumba yesterday said 53 cases of measles were reported from six local governments since the beginning of the year
Kumba added that urgent steps were taken and the situation was controlled such that by the end of February, there were no new cases reported.
In Taraba State, few cases of measles were reported, but director of the Health Services Management Board was not available to give specific figures.
Minister of State for Health, Dr Muhammed Ali Pate, yesterday said the cases of measles being recorded especially in the northern part of the country are the consequences of parents’ refusal to immunize their children.
“The measles outbreak is a direct consequence of parents refusing to immunize their children. Measles is a disease which is 99% preventable,” he told Daily Trust.
“We also have effective vaccines, freely distributed by the Federal Government through the National Primary Health Care Development Agency to states.”
The executive director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Dr Ado Mohammed, who also spoke to Daily Trust by telephone, said 18 deaths have been recorded nationwide so far.
He said a team of health workers were conducting surveillance and some investigations to ensure that the disease is contained. He also lamented that the cases recorded could have been averted if “mischief makers” had not sent out messages to parents discouraging them from vaccinating their children.
He said there was no vaccine shortage as the Federal Government made available to states the required doses for routine immunization.
“We are on top of the situation. As I am speaking to you we are already conducting mop-up exercises in those states that are affected, and the surrounding areas to contain the outbreak,” Mohammed said.
“What we are experiencing is the down side of the ineffective measles campaign conducted in 2011, and the states affected now recorded low quality campaigns. But to avert further cases we will conduct a massive immunization campaign in June or August to vaccinate all missed children. It would take that long because we need to train health workers to administer the vaccines correctly since it is not administered orally.”