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Panic as measles ravages Rivers rural communities

Fears and apprehension have gripped residents of Emago-kugbo, Amuroutoru-Kugbo and Akani-Kugbo communities in Abua Odua Local Government Area of Rivers State over the outbreak of…

Fears and apprehension have gripped residents of Emago-kugbo, Amuroutoru-Kugbo and Akani-Kugbo communities in Abua Odua Local Government Area of Rivers State over the outbreak of measles. There are conflicting reports over the true number of deaths as a result of the outbreak.

Reports had it that scores of children have lost their lives as a result of the outbreak of measles in these communities.

While the Community Development Committee Chairman of Emago-kugbo, Levi Marcus, said 50 children lost their lives to the virus, both head of the local government area primary healthcare, Dr Henry Iboh, and council Chairman, Daniels E.O. Daniels, said no lives were lost.

Measles according to health dictionary is an acute contagious disease that is caused by a morbillivirus and is said to be marked especially by an eruption of distinct red circular spots. 

The virus is said to cause fever and a red rash typically occurring in childhood. It is found in the nose and throat of an infected child or adult. It is spread when someone with measles coughs, sneezes or talks. The infectious droplets spread into the air where other people can breathe them in. The droplet can hang in the air for about an hour.

Abua/Odua Local Government Area is comprised of nine communities – Otari, Omokwa, Odua, Omelema, Okana, Omaraka, Ogbema, Omalem and Emilaghan. About 55 clans and villages make up the entire Abua kingdom. The local government area was carved out from the old Ahoada province and was created in 1991. 

The communities of Abua/Odua have suffered underdevelopment due to poor infrastructures such as good road network and electricity. Many of the villages in the area lack good primary healthcare centres, a development that triggered the recent outbreak of measles.

The villages affected by the virus lack basic healthcare facilities and potable water.

The Community Development Committee Chairman of Emago Kugbo community, Mr Levi Marcus, said about 50 children were lost to the measles outbreak. Marcus told our reporter that measles is ravaging his community.

He said that the outbreak was first reported in Amuroutoru-Kugbo community and has spread to Emago-kugbo and Akani-Kugbo communities.

He said about 20 children have died in Akani-Kugbo while 15 cases were recorded in Amuruotoru, the figures both local government area Chairman, Daniel. E O. Daniel and Dr Henry Iboh described as false.

Levi Marcus said the virus is fast ravaging villages in the area such as Okugbo, Emakgbo, Akani and Akpotu. 

“In Akani-Okugbo, from what we witnessed and confirmed, 20 children have died. In Amuruotoru, we also recorded 15 cases and government has not responded. There is ample evidence of outbreak of the discase and associated deaths of children in the area. Those that said that there is no death are just expressing their ignorance. Coming to see the morbidity rate that is very high, how can there be no mortality rate? So, they are trying to expose their level of ignorance by saying that there is no life lost. Children died in Emago-kugbo and Amuruotoru-kugbo. If you want me to upload pictures of the grave of the children who died, I will do that. You know the bible says when the righteous rules, the people rejoice but when the wicked rules, the people suffer. That is what is happening now in our communities,” he said.

Mrs Joy Jackson, a native of Emago-kugbo who lost a child to the measles outbreak, said two of her children are still down with the virus.

She said the residents of the communities ravaged by the virus are yet to see the promised medical team that was to come and immunize children in the villages.

“I lost one of my children while two survived. For the two surviving ones, I have not seen any form of help. They said they will come to our community to immunize those who have the sickness and those who do not have but up till now, they have not come. This community is very large; if you go round, you will find out that so many children are down with the virus. Some children died in Emago-kugbo,” she said.

Jackson pointed out that several other women in the community have their children infected with the virus, saying that there is ample evidence around the community about the incident.

Another victim, Mrs Janet Akari, said two of her children were also affected by the measles. 

She said the affected children have rashes all over their bodies just as they are stooling all through.

“The outbreak of measles in our community is real. I can tell you that two of my children are affected. They are down with measles and there is no help from the government as it stands now. We don’t have good functional primary healthcare centres. Something urgent should be done before the virus takes over the entire Abua Odua Local Government Area,” she said.

Another victim, Carol Mumuoye, said “Yes, the outbreak of measles is real in our community. I have two children that were affected by the measles. We are trying our best to see how we can treat them. We have also tried as much as possible to protect the entire family from the ravaging deadly virus. The primary health centre we have here is not functional. The government promised to carry out immunization in the community but nothing has happened. We want an urgent intervention before it gets out of hand,” she said.

The head of Abua/Odua primary healthcare department, Dr Henry Iboh, stated that medical experts were dispatched to the communities some days ago to attend to those who had the virus while insisting that no life was lost.

He said that there was a mild outbreak of measles in the area and urged parents to make their children available for immunization.

He enjoined them to always go to the primary healthcare centre close to them to immunize their children under the ages of 5 against childhood killer diseases.

The chairman of Abua Odua Local Government Area, Daniel E O. Daniels, said the number of deaths arising from the measles outbreak given out in the media is false.

Daniels, who spoke to a radio station in Port Harcourt monitored by our reporter, said those behind the death figure are politicians who want to score a cheap political points.

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