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Opening page Measles: How children, adults can protect themselves By Olayemi John-Mensah Mrs Grace Olaonipekun was shocked when her four-year old son was diagnosed with…

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Measles: How children, adults can protect themselves

By Olayemi John-Mensah

Mrs Grace Olaonipekun was shocked when her four-year old son was diagnosed with measles during the recent outbreak because she had ensured he was immunized against the disease when he was a baby. She spent four days with him in a hospital to receive treatment.

Many children are still being infected by measles despite immunisation against the disease annually.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says measles is one of the leading cause of death among young children, even though a safe and cost-effective vaccine is available. The contagious disease had caused an estimated 2.6 million death annually before the widespread vaccination to curtail it in 1980.

It is caused by a virus which is normally passed through direct contact, and through the air. The virus infects the mucous membranes, then spreads throughout the body.

“The highly contagious virus that lives in the nose and throat mucus of an infected person can spread to others through coughing and sneezing and the virus can live for up to two hours in an airspace where the infected person coughed or sneezed,” says Dr. Olajide Joseph Adebola, a global eHealth expert and President Society of Telemedicine and eHealth “If other people breathe the contaminated air or touch the infected surface, touch their eyes, noses, or mouths, they can become infected.”

Contrary to people’s belief that measles affects only children, he said that the people at the high risk of severe illness and complications from measles include: unvaccinated young children, pregnant women, non-immune persons (who has not been vaccinated or was vaccinated but did not develop immunity) can become infected, and people with compromise immune systems, such as leukemia and HIV infection.

He said: “When adults get measles, they usually feel worse than children who get it. The incubation period usually takes about seven to 18 days.”

He said severe complications from measles can be avoided through supportive care that ensures good nutrition, adequate fluid intake and treatment of dehydration with WHO-recommended oral rehydration solution. This solution replaces fluids and other essential elements that are lost through diarrhoea or vomiting.Antibiotics should be prescribed to treat eye and ear infections, and pneumonia.

Dr. Rilwan Muhammed, the Executive Secretary FCT Primary Healthcare Board, and a consultant physician said the target for eradication of measles is 2022 and government will continue to give the vaccination every two years until the target is achieved.

He said vaccination does not prevent anyone that has been immunised from measles infection, but rather reduces complications; and any person that is infected cannot be re-infected again.

He said health workers went round to sensitise people on the importance of immunising their wards against the diseases but not all the children were vaccinated because the awareness creation was not done house to house.

“Most of the people affected during the outbreak are those that refused to turn out for vaccination. We went to all public places, schools, markets and motor parks for sensitisation but we didn’t do house to house awareness creation. Some people did not turn up,” he said.

He explained that most people who give birth at home or private hospitals where they don’t get the vaccination always fall victims of the infection.

“Strong immunity can help fight the scourge of infection. It is not the vaccination that prevents the outbreak. You may be vaccinated but if there is no immunity; that is when people do not have good food to eat, good water to drink, they can be affected. They outbreak in most places is because people’s immunity is low,” he said.

Asked the reason for the recent outbreak of the disease across the country, he said “There will be outbreak when our industries produce carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide; when we burn bushes and people inhale them, and when there is excessive heat as a result of change in weather.”

He enjoined care givers and parents to immunize their children against measles so that when there is an outbreak, the complications will be minimized, adding that as at now, Nigeria should be able to tackle measles.

According to him, “The first step of reducing the infection is through vaccination and this has been made available almost free by the government, and they are never out of stock. It is just for people to go to our healthcare centers and take it. The only charge attached is for the syringe and spirit used in applying it, and I don’t think that one is more than N500.”

Rilwan said the agency also faces challenges in getting private hospitals involved in immunisation exercise, adding that it is only two private hospitals out of 49 in the Federal Capital Territory that is registered with the agency.

“They refused to register, and prefer to get their vaccines from other sources which we are not sure of the potency. Outbreaks continue because we have a lot of people attending private hospitals,” he said.

Why health outcomes for women, children should be strengthened

From Rakiya A.Muhammad,Sokoto

The Country Director, Plan International Nigeria Project, Dr Hussaini Abdu has stressed the need to strengthen health outcomes for women and children.

He stated this at the opening ceremony of the implementation planning workshop for the Global Affairs Canada funded SHOW Project in Sokoto.

The SHOW project is as an initiative to contribute to the reduction of maternal and child mortality in Sokoto State.

“Our goal is to have fully equipped and functional Primary Health Centres managed by competent and motivated staff that provide access to high quality services 24 hours a day,7 days a week, in strengthened communities that proactively ensures women of child bearing age and children utilise these services, resulting in significant reduction in maternal and child mortality,” he said.

He called for collaborative efforts towards achieving the goal of the SHOW project which he said was designed to strengthen the community health management information system, provide support communities with objective and quality data to a make informed decisions to improve the state of health, as measured by maternal, new-born and child indicators.

The State Commissioner for Health, Dr Balarabe Kakale disclosed? plans to establish emergency response blood units for obstetrics patients in hospitals across Sokoto State saying it would reduce maternal mortality and morbidity.

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