Nigeria Ranks Third Highest in Measles Cases

Nigeria Ranks Third Highest in Measles Cases

Postby Richard Akindele » Thu Aug 10, 2006 5:03 pm

The world Health Organisation (WHO) has named Nigeria as one of the three countries that account for the majority of global measles deaths. Nigeria ranked third behind India and Pakistan.

According to a recent report by the Measles Initiative, an international organization mainly funded by the WHO, United Nations Foundation, United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and the American Red Cross for the sole purpose of reducing measles death globally. "Measles continues to be a serious problem in Nigeria" the organisation said in its website. "Each year, measles kills nearly 454,000 people globally and 410,000 of them are children under the age of five and Nigeria accounts for 50 per cent of this global figure.

In view of this, Measles Initiative concluded that "Measles is still endemic in Nigeria and is a major cause of childhood illness and death."

To buttress its point, the group said findings has shown that on annual basis, no fewer than 35,856 thousand children were affected by measles in Nigeria.

It added that, "the trend of measles cases in Nigeria follows a seasonal pattern with periods of high and low transmission."

The global agency identified January to June as the period of high transmission, noting that it often reached the peak in May. It added that low transmission was thus experienced from July to December.

However, the measles pandemic is not limited to Nigeria. WHO said in Africa, an estimated 38 million children under the age of five were at risk from measles and about 282,000 of them die as a result of the disease.

WHO added that "virtually every community in Africa is affected and this fact makes measles one of the leading causes of death among children in the developing countries more than HIV/AIDS, more than malaria and more than malnutrition.

This the global health apex body said was "inspite of the availability of safe, effective and relatively inexpensive vaccines for more than 40 years for measles."

But why is this so? The National Interim Co-ordinator for the National Programme on Immunization, (NPI) Dr. (Mrs.) Edugie Abebe told Champion Health Forum that "In most parts of Nigeria, health conditions are extremely poor and living conditions especially in the rural areas are dismal such that access to healthcare and vaccines is minimal."

She added that most children are very vulnerable because they are infected when their immune system is too low, and with most families lacking access to adequate medical care, many complications like pneumonia and blindness often occur.

She added that the consequent health damage caused by measles are high fever, peeling of the skin surface and even encephalitis leading to brain damage. Indeed, many health experts point out that the measles itself does not often kill children, rather its complications from measles which weaken the immune system that kill the children.

There are two key ways to contract measles. Measles is very contagious and the germs are carried in the air and many kids get the germs in crowded and unclean places.

Another way, is when they come in contact with an infected child.

The good news however according to NPI and WHO, is that measles can be prevented through vaccines and even when contracted, it can be treated. But sadly, most poor families do not realize the urgency of prompt treatment until it is too late.

To reduce the incidences of this vaccine-preventable childhood killer disease, measles, WHO said the Measles Initiative will support the identified 47 priority countries (Nigeria inclusive) and work with other bodies to reduce global measles deaths by 90 per cent by year 2010.

Nigeria is also leaving no stone untouched towards curbing the measles epidemic.

According to the NPI boss, several accelerated measles campaign has been lined up for all the states of the country for this year.

"After these accelerated measles campaign, we expect incidence of measles to reduce drastically especially coupled with the regular routine immunization for children between the ages of nine months to 10 years" the NPI boss stated.

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