Vac­cine drive launched to com­bat Naga out­break

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - MYINT KAY THI my­in­tkaythi@mm­times.com

Two health teams de­ployed to Lahe and Nanyun town­ships to stop a deadly out­break of measles that has in­fected over 200 res­i­dents of the Naga self-ad­min­is­tered zone, and killed 41 chil­dren.

HEATLH of­fi­cials are ur­gently de­ploy­ing vac­ci­na­tions in western Sa­gaing Re­gion in an at­tempt to stymie a deadly measles out­break that has claimed two more chil­dren’s lives.

The in­fec­tion, which was first re­ported in June, has spread rapidly and killed a to­tal of 41 peo­ple in the Naga self-ad­min­is­tered zone, a re­mote area of Sa­gaing Re­gion with ex­tremely lim­ited ac­cess to health­care.

Med­i­cal teams from the Min­istry of Health have been sent to bol­ster lo­cal ad­min­is­tra­tors’ at­tempts to con­trol the out­break, and pro­vide treat­ment.

For nearly two months the out­break went un­di­ag­nosed. But while health of­fi­cials strug­gle to catch up, pa­tients, mostly young chil­dren, are dy­ing by the day.

Dr Than Tun Aung, deputy di­rec­tor gen­eral of the Depart­ment of Public Health, yes­ter­day said that blood tests have con­firmed the out­break is at­trib­ut­able to measles, a vi­ral, vac­cine-preventable dis­ease.

“Five pa­tients’ blood work has been tested in the lab­o­ra­tory and the re­sults showed that three were pos­i­tive for measles in Lahe town­ship,” he said.

Measles, a highly con­ta­gious res­pi­ra­tory in­fec­tion, can cause a high fever, rash and flu-like symp­toms, and re­mains a lead­ing killer of young chil­dren, es­pe­cially when they have other health ail­ments such as mal­nu­tri­tion. In the Naga-con­trolled area, about 200 peo­ple have re­ported suf­fer­ing such symp­toms, along with dif­fi­culty breath­ing, and cough­ing up blood.

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.

Dr Than Tun Aung ac­knowl­edged that Lahe and Nanyun town­ships have low vac­cine cov­er­age. He added that as health of­fi­cials at­tempt to rectify the vaccination gap, they are faced with trans­porta­tion dif­fi­cul­ties and a short­age of area health staff who can ad­min­is­ter the in­oc­u­la­tions.

“Re­gional med­i­cal teams from Nay Pyi Taw reached the area of the out­break and are start­ing to ad­min­is­ter the vac­ci­na­tions and med­i­cal treat­ment,” he said.

Med­i­cal teams be­gan the vaccination drive on Au­gust 6, ac­cord­ing to U Thein Zaw, deputy di­rec­tor of the Gen­eral Ad­min­is­tra­tion Of­fice for the Naga-ad­min­is­tered re­gion. So far, 70 chil­dren aged from nine months to five years old have been vac­ci­nated and 183 peo­ple in vil­lages in Nanyun town­ship have re­ceived med­i­cal care, he said.

“We have not got­ten a re­port from Lahe town­ship yet as com­mu­ni­ca­tion is dif­fi­cult,” said U Thein Zaw.

He added that Lahe and Nanyun town­ships lack ru­ral health cen­tres to pro­vide even ba­sic med­i­cal ser­vices.

Dr Than Tun Aung said that the min­istry is plan­ning a full-scale vaccination cam­paign in the Naga area in or­der to bring all chil­dren up to date on their im­mu­ni­sa­tions.

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