Army and doc­tors sent to Naga amid out­break

As a mys­te­ri­ous dis­ease con­tin­ues to claim chil­dren’s lives in a re­mote area of Sa­gaing, lead­ers are scram­bling to help the vic­tims, and have asked for per­mis­sion to seek aid in In­dia.

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page -

AS re­ports of more deaths fil­ter out of a re­mote out­post of Sa­gaing Re­gion, the army has been de­ployed and civil­ian volun­teers are pre­par­ing to go to the scene to ren­der as­sis­tance. Yes­ter­day a lo­cal MP said the death toll had risen to 40 as a mys­te­ri­ous dis­ease con­tin­ues to spread.

The in­fected area strad­dles Lahe and Nanyun town­ships in the Naga self-ad­min­is­tered re­gion in the moun­tain­ous north­east­ern cor­ner of Sa­gaing Re­gion, near the bor­der with In­dia. The dis­ease, which has not been of­fi­cially di­ag­nosed, has symp­toms that in­clude skin rashes, fever, difficulty breath­ing and cough­ing up blood. About 200 peo­ple in the zone have re­ported suf­fer­ing such symp­toms.

The New York Times re­ported on Au­gust 6 that health au­thor­i­ties had de­ter­mined the dis­ease out­break is due to measles, a vac­cine pre­ventable and highly con­ta­gious virus.

Measles vac­ci­na­tion is in­cluded in the rou­tine na­tional pro­gram, but last year a health of­fi­cial told The Myan­mar Times that a short­age of medicines has re­sulted in many chil­dren miss­ing out on im­mu­ni­sa­tion in the past. As a re­sult, 34 measles out­breaks were re­ported in 2011.

In the cur­rent out­break, more than nine vil­lages have been af­fected in Lahe and Nanyun town­ships. Ac­cord­ing to Pyithu Hlut­taw MP U Thet Naung (NLD; Lahe), the mostaf­fected area is Htan Khun Lama vil­lage in his con­stituency.

Naga youth and com­mu­nity lead­ers are scram­bling to get help to the vic­tims and the lo­cal ad­min­is­tra­tion has asked per­mis­sion to cross the bor­der and seek aid in In­dia. The per­mis­sion was re­port­edly de­nied.

Yes­ter­day two Tat­madaw units were dis­patched to pro­vide se­cu­rity for the med­i­cal teams that were head­ing for the af­fected vil­lages on mo­tor­bikes pro­vided by the Naga zone’s gov­ern­ment.

Dr Than Htun Aung, deputy di­rec­tor gen­eral of the De­part­ment of Pub­lic Health, said two dis­ease con­trol teams were on their way. Ac­cord­ing to lo­cals in the Naga area, the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion and Médecins Sans Fron­tières have also promised as­sis­tance, a claim The Myan­mar Times was not able to ver­ify by press time yes­ter­day.

“We’re try­ing to con­trol the dis­ease, but it will take at least 15 days to vac­ci­nate peo­ple in the af­fected ar­eas,” he said.

Naw Aung Sann, gen­eral sec­re­tary of the Coun­cil of Naga Affairs, said, “The death toll has reached 40, but no new deaths were re­ported last night or this morn­ing. It’s too early to say things are un­der con­trol.”

Blood and urine samples are be­ing ex­am­ined to de­ter­mine a course of treat­ment and doc­tors are on their way from the Sa­gaing Re­gion gov­ern­ment of­fice, the army and Nay Pyi Taw, he added.

Naw Aung Sann en­cour­aged the gov­ern­ment to put in place a state of emer­gency in the area.

Lo­cal au­thor­i­ties have been on alert since June 14, when a girl died in Lahe town­ship, ac­cord­ing to a state­ment is­sued by the coun­cil. On July 9, the tract/vil­lage ad­min­is­tra­tor re­ported the out­break to U Myint Aung, as­sis­tant di­rec­tor of the Gov­ern­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tion De­part­ment, but the information was not passed to the Union gov­ern­ment level. U Thein Zaw, deputy di­rec­tor of the Naga GAD, said he had been in­formed of de­vel­op­ments only on July 23.

“One main cause of the deaths was the weak­ness of healthcare pro­vi­sion in ru­ral ar­eas. They didn’t pass on the information be­cause they thought the deaths were nor­mal,” said Naw Aung Sann.

Dr Than Htun Aung said, “In these re­mote ar­eas, there are not enough healthcare staff and trans­porta­tion is very dif­fi­cult.”

Shanah Or­gan­i­sa­tion spokesper­son Yin Meko Chine said, “A few of us from Yangon will be leav­ing for the af­fected area in the next cou­ple of days, as soon as we’ve as­sem­bled enough aid items to dis­trib­ute. What we need now is medicines and nu­tri­tional sup­port. Our med­i­cal teams will in­oc­u­late chil­dren in the sur­round­ing vil­lages, but we don’t know how many there are.”

A med­i­cal team will stay in the area for a month to treat the dis­ease and ren­der gen­eral med­i­cal sup­port, said Dr U Than Tun Aung. – Ad­di­tional re­port­ing by Khin Su Wai

Photo: AFP

Naga chil­dren play in Lahe town­ship, a re­mote part of Sa­gaing Re­gion, on De­cem­ber 24, 2014, nearly two years be­fore the town and nearby ar­eas were hit by an uniden­ti­fied dis­ease that has left many chil­dren dead.

MYINT KAY THI

THU THU AUNG

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