By Samuel Oyadongha
Yenagoaâ€”The death toll in the measles epidemic ravaging Oweikurogha community in Bayelsa State has hit 25.
This is coming against the backdrop of assurances by the state government yesterday said it had restricted the epidemic from spreading to neighbouring settlements on its coast line in the Southern Ijaw local government area of the state.
Measles is a contagious acute viral disease with symptoms that include a bright red rash spread over the body.
It was learnt that those worst affected in the community were children and young people.
The only government health centre in the community, it was learnt, could not cope with the influx of patients, prompting the natives to ask for medical staff to be posted to the communityâ€™s health centre to provide primary treatment for patients. They also demanded the upgrading of the health centre to a full hospital with doctors and nurses.
The Commissioner for Health, Dr. Azibapu Eruani, who spoke to newsmen Thursday in Yenagoa, confirmed the outbreak of theÂ epidemic but did not give the casualty figure
Dr. Eruani who described the situation as â€˜very criticalâ€™ however said a team of medical personnel, including members of the Doctors Without Border and officials from the state Primary Health department dispatched to the area have succeeded in containing the spread of the viral disease to neighbouring communities.
He also explained that drugs and other relief materials had been sent to the area to ameliorate the suffering the people.
â€œThe situation there is under control. We have dispatched medical personnel to the area to properly handle the situation and as I speak with you Doctors Without Border medical team are still there and they have contained the measles from spreading to other communities,â€ he said.
The commissioner blamed the outbreak of the ailment on what he described as â€œthe refusal of the some of the natives to avail themselves of the government immunisation programme due to their religious beliefs.
â€œSome people donâ€™t bring out their children for immunisation because of their religion beliefs,â€ he lamented.
He added that more health personnel would be dispatched to the area enlighten the rural populace on the need to have their wards immunised against the â€˜killer children diseasesâ€™.
Vanguard gathered that the people of the community and several other communities in Southern Ijaw local government area are predominantly members of a white garment church that forbids immunisation.