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Kenya prolongs anti measles drive

NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 27 – The vaccination of measles in children aged five and below will continue in the coming weeks, after a seven-day emergency campaign failed to reach the intended coverage.

In an interview with Capital News, Director of Public Health Dr Shahnaaz Shariff said Nairobi and Thika were among the areas that did not reach 100 percent immunisation coverage, something he attributed to social mobilisation where some parents may not have been aware.

“All districts have finished the emergency vaccination but there are some in North Rift which started late and they will be continuing,” Dr Shariff added.

“We are not going to have an extension of the campaign as such but what we are going to do is that we are going to continue our social mobilisation and tell parents to take their children for immunisation,” he stated.

The week long emergency campaign was necessitated by an outbreak in North Eastern and Rift Valley provinces, where at least 110 cases were reported.

In a press conference last week, Public Health Minister Beth Mugo had said that most of the measles cases were from the Hagadera refugee camp in Fafi district, where 70 cases had been detected. 40 others were reported at Kakuma refugee camp in Turkana Central district.

Dr Shariff said on Sunday that cases of measles were reported in Nairobi, Thika and Kiambu during the Sh135 million vaccination drive that ended on Friday.

“There are two laboratory confirmed cases of measles in Nairobi but for the rest we have taken samples, of which we should get results on Monday or Tuesday,” he said.

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In 2006, at least 120 children died of the disease prompting an emergency measles campaign to be carried out. Since then none has been done, and government statistics indicate that over 1.3 million children had not been vaccinated since then because of several reasons, including insecurity.

The World Health Organisation defines measles as a highly contagious viral disease, which affects mostly children. It is transmitted through droplets from the nose, mouth or throat of infected persons.

Initial symptoms, which usually appear eight to12 days after infection, include high fever, runny nose, bloodshot eyes, and tiny white spots on the inside of the mouth. Several days later, a rash develops, starting on the face and upper neck and gradually spreads downwards.

WHO says there is no specific treatment for measles and most people recover within two to three weeks. However, particularly in malnourished children and people with reduced immunity; measles could cause serious complications, including blindness, encephalitis, severe diarrhoea, ear infection and pneumonia.

Measles can be prevented by immunisation which is administered through an injection into the right upper arm, while vitamin A supplementation which is an oily liquid is administered by mouth.

Meanwhile, Dr Shariff said the government would give priority to people with chronic diseases for the H1N1 influenza virus vaccination when it’s available.

He told Capital News this was because such underlying conditions left that section of the population at higher risk of contracting the flu, commonly known as Swine flu.

Donations of the pandemic vaccines for use in developing countries were announced last week by the United States, and Kenya has asked for four million doses.

“Because there is a tremendous demand for it, we put a request much earlier than other countries have done, and once we get the vaccine we will actually target the high risk population and that is people who have underlying diseases such as lung disease, asthma and others,” he said.

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In its website, the World Health Organisation says the pandemic vaccines have their greatest impact as a preventive strategy when administered before or near the peak incidence of cases in an outbreak.

“I think things are okay. The panic has stopped people; have realised it was not as severe as they were meant to believe. In a lot of schools they are having the outbreak of the seasonal influenza and they are saying its swine flu, which is not the case,” Dr Shariff stated.

He said there were only seven schools which had confirmed cases of the H1N1 influenza virus.


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