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Measles Outbreak In Punjab: Causes And Government Prevention Efforts

Measles Outbreak In Punjab: Causes And Government Prevention Efforts

“My seven-month-old daughter has contracted measles. I don’t know how she got infected with this virus,” said Fatima, a resident of Lahore, in an interview with Media. “Initially, her throat was affected, and later she developed a high fever. At first, I thought it was just a common seasonal fever, but three days later, she broke out in a rash all over her body.”

“It’s heartbreaking to see her suffering like this in the midst of this hot summer. Besides my daughter, I also have a son. The most challenging part right now is keeping both children separate and staying away from my son as a mother.”

Read more: Confirmation of Poliovirus in 8 Cities of Pakistan

Measles is spreading across Punjab province

Measles has reached epidemic levels in several cities across Punjab province, Pakistan, in recent months. The Punjab Health Department reported over 13,000 measles cases and 31 deaths in 2024. Dr. Haroon Hamid highlighted to the media the widespread nature of the outbreak, affecting children of all ages. He noted that Lahore, Multan, and Rawalpindi are hotspots, with spread also observed in other Punjab cities, albeit not as intensely.

Dr. Hamid also mentioned that besides children, mothers caring for infected children are also contracting the virus, and there have been cases among men. He emphasized the need for special care, citing the youngest patient treated being just 25 days old.

What is measles, and what level of danger does it pose?

Doctors explain that measles primarily affects young children, but adults can also be affected by this virus. The symptoms typically include cough, sore throat, fever, eye pain, and a body rash, all of which require medical attention.

Dr. Haroon Hamid, a specialist in pediatric diseases, emphasizes that the body rash in measles appears after other symptoms. Therefore, isolating the affected child is crucial to prevent spreading the virus to others.

Discussing the disease, he notes, “Measles itself is not usually harmful, but complications such as pneumonia, meningitis, or other infections can be fatal. Thus, caution and preventive measures are essential.”

What factors lead to outbreaks of measles?

Most experts attribute measles outbreaks to its highly contagious nature, spreading rapidly from person to person. According to Dr. Haroon, contact with an infected individual without precautions significantly increases the likelihood of contracting the virus, whether for children or adults.

Further explaining the reasons behind measles spread, he noted, “In Pakistan, particularly in Punjab, measles outbreaks occur every four to five years because only 85 percent of the population in Punjab has completed the measles vaccination course.”

He emphasized that achieving a vaccination rate of 95 percent in an area or city is crucial to halt the spread of diseases like measles. Dr. Haroon stressed, “Increasing vaccination coverage is essential to prevent viruses like measles from reaching epidemic levels.”

Director of Immunization Program Punjab, Dr. Mukhtar Awan, while talking to Media, said that ‘It is a fact that 100% of people do not get measles vaccine. But this is not the only reason for its spread. In this case we have to look back a few decades. Today, children are vaccinated against measles at the age of nine months and fifteen months. While it was not the case before. In earlier times, an inoculation was administered. Therefore, when measles occurs in children, it often affects mothers as well.

‘An aspect of this is that people don’t return for the second dose at 15 months after the one-year course of immunization is over, leaving many children missing the booster dose. ‘

He said that we have two hundred and thirty five lakh children under five years of age in Punjab province and we need 24 billion rupees to vaccinate all of them and buy vaccinations.

He further said that this time measles has taken the form of an epidemic also because all kinds of campaigns and medical related things were stopped during the days of Corona. Due to which many children were also delayed in getting their immunizations. But we also checked the vaccination cards of all the children with the polio campaign after Corona so that the children who were left vaccinated could be given it.

What actions is the government implementing to manage this epidemic?

Dr. Mukhtar Awan discussed government initiatives, stating that they have identified and are monitoring all hotspot areas for measles. They are actively conducting awareness campaigns and conducting thorough checks around any reported cases, vaccinating individuals who have not yet received the measles vaccine.

Dr. Awan added that separate wards for measles patients have been established in various hospitals across Punjab to contain the spread of the disease.

Looking ahead, he mentioned plans to initiate a nationwide measles reduction and prevention campaign in 2025.

How can you safeguard yourself during an epidemic?

Doctors emphasize that the most crucial measure to protect oneself from measles is to avoid contact with infected individuals. Patients should be isolated and their belongings separated. It’s important to maintain strict physical hygiene for the patient.

Dr. Mukhtar Awan highlighted several misconceptions about measles, such as not bathing the child, thinking that hot food will eliminate the virus, or avoiding cold rooms. These beliefs could potentially worsen the child’s condition. Therefore, it’s advised not to take any actions that might exacerbate the illness. Following medical instructions for medication is also paramount.