By Sola Ogundipe
It took the death of at least 20 children in Otodo-Gbame, a rural settlement in Eti Osa Local Government Area of Lagos before the state government to identify the cause of the strange febrile rash illness that was sweeping through the community. Blood samples sent to two Lagos labs confirmed that the strange illness is measles.
Sunday Vanguard gathered that samples sent to Central Public Health Laboratory, Yaba, Lagos tested positive for IgM, a blood marker for recent infection with measles virus while four throat swabs and one blood samples investigated at the Virology Reference Laboratory, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, confirmed presence of measles virus through Polymerase Chain Reaction, PCR, a highly sensitive diagnostic technique.
Commissioner for Health, Dr. Jide Idris, had admitted to the media last week that the outbreak was attributable to poor environmental sanitation, lack of potable water, but also because children in the affected community had not only missed out on the routine immunisation exercise, they were also bypassed in the mop-up immunisation because the Ministry of Health was unaware of existence of the settlement.
“Not many people knew that the community existed. As at the time we heard it, we heard it late and that when we started the investigation,” Idris stated .
Health officials have since begun mass immunisation of children for measles in the community, backed by awareness creation and community sensitization, even as active case search continues.
Killer at large
Measles is a contagious disease that is caused by a virus that lives in the nose and throat mucus of an infected person.. It is 100 percent a human disease. Only humans spread the measles virus, no other animal species is known to spread or habour measles.
It is a vaccine preventable disorder, yet continues to afflict children around the world. The measles virus that attacks the respiratory tract is one of the most contagious diseases known. Children are especially vulnerable to measles and 330 die from it every day globally despite the availability of a safe, effective and affordable vaccine. Measles survivors are often left with life-long disabilities, such as blindness, deafness or brain damage.
Measles is a highly contagious virus. It can spread to others through coughing and sneezing. The measles virus can live for up to two hours in an airspace where the infected person coughed or sneezed. If other people breathe the contaminated air or touch the infected surface, then touch their eyes, noses, or mouths, they can become infected. Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, 90 percent of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected. Infected people can spread measles to others from four days before through four days after the rash appears.
Measles rash & Koplik spots
The infection starts with fever, runny nose, cough, red eyes, and sore throat. Three to five days after symptoms begin, a rash breaks out. It usually begins as flat red spots that appear on the face at the hairline and spread downward to the neck, trunk, arms, legs, and feet. Small raised bumps may also appear on top of the flat red spots. Two or three days after symptoms begin, tiny white spots (Koplik spots) may appear inside the mouth. The fever may spike to more than 104° Fahrenheit. After a few days, the fever subsides and the rash fades
In the decade before 1963 when a vaccine became available, nearly all children in the world got measles by the time they were 15 years of age. Measles vaccine is usually combined with mumps and rubella, hence the name Measles, Mumps & Rubella or MMR vaccine. The WHO recommends that children should receive two doses of MMR, the first dose at 12 through 15 months of age and the second dose at 4 through six years of age.
The MMR vaccine is very safe and effective and the best way to protect children and prevent them from spreading the disease to others. The success of measles vaccination has been dramatic. Since 2000, an estimated 15.6 million child deaths have been prevented through measles immunisation. In 2013, approximately 84 percent of children around the world were immunized against measles.