Health ministry to launch immunisation campaign

MASERU — The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare will kickstart a countrywide measles immunisation campaign this month.

Health Minister Dr Mphu Ramatlapeng last week said the countrywide vaccination programme will be the continuation of the project which started earlier this year after a measles outbreak.

About 31 children died of measles after an outbreak in March.

A total of 1 168 suspected cases were reported in 10 districts across the country with 49 confirmed cases.

Maseru was the highest with nine deaths followed by Leribe with eight, Quthing seven, Thaba-Tseka three, Mafeteng two and Butha-Buthe and Berea with one death each.

Ramatlapeng said the plan is to get every child from the newborns to 15-year-olds immunised during the programme.

She said the ministry was worried that some parents had been reluctant to get their children vaccinated when the mass immunisation programme started last year.

 “It is disheartening that children died of measles when treatment is always available,” the minister said.

“We do not need any more of those unnecessary deaths. This is why we are going to intensify the campaign to make sure that it (vaccination) is available to every child,” Ramatlapeng said.

“We are going to use all means of transport to get to every place in the country. We will even walk if we have to,” she said.

“Every child’s good health is my responsibility. I plead with every parent to take their children to centres which will be announced before the campaign kicks off.”

The symptoms of the infection include skin rash, coughing, fever, a runny nose and red eyes.

Important facts on measles

Measles is one of the leading causes of death among young children even though a safe and cost-effective vaccine is available.

In 2008, there were 164 000 measles deaths globally — nearly 450 deaths every day or 18 deaths every hour.

More than 95 percent of measles deaths occur in low-income countries with weak health infrastructures.

Measles vaccination resulted in a 78 percent drop in measles deaths between 2000 and 2008 worldwide.

In 2008, about 83 percent of the world’s children received one dose of measles vaccine by their first birthday through routine health services — up from 72 percent in 2000.

Measles is a highly contagious and serious disease caused by a virus from the paramyxovirus family.

The virus normally grows in the cells that line the back of the throat and lungs.

It is a highly contagious virus that is spread by coughing and sneezing, close personal contact or direct contact with infected nasal or throat secretions.

The virus remains active and contagious in the air or on infected surfaces for up to two hours.

Measles can be transmitted by an infected person from four days prior to the onset of the rash to four days after the rash erupts.

Measles outbreaks can result in epidemics that cause many deaths, especially among young and malnourished children.

The most serious complications include blindness, encephalitis (an infection that causes brain swelling), severe diarrhoea and related dehydration, ear infections, or severe respiratory infections.

Source — WHO

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