The Health authorities have warned people in the district against an increasing incidence of measles in children, especially in unvaccinated children. As many as 82 measles cases were reported in the district in the past two weeks. “People have to be really vigilant, especially as this is a highly contagious and potentially dangerous disease,” said District Medical Officer R. Renuka.
Most of the cases were reported in children who had not taken measles vaccine. Out of the 28 cases reported in one particular area of Tirur, as many as 26 were unimmunised. “This is something appalling. We need to push hard once again to convince parents about the importance of immunisation,” said Dr. Renuka.
The State health regime is offering measles vaccine to children in two stages. The first dose of vaccine is given when a child is in its ninth month, and the second dose (MR vaccine) when the child is 18 months old. Large sections of parents in the district are learnt to have ignored the measles vaccine for their children under the assumption that measles is not a dangerous disease.
“This attitude is worrying. Data shows that measles has a fatality rate of three in 1,000 cases. Recently five children died of measles in Maharashtra. We should be serious. Measles can lead to such life threatening diseases such as pneumonia and meningitis,” said Dr. Renuka.
Although measles was reported in some vaccinated children too in the district, the health authorities confirmed that all those cases were mild. Dr. Renuka said that efforts were being made to arrest the spread of the disease, especially in Kalpakanchery and neighbouring places. “Allowing our children to die of a disease that can be prevented with vaccines is shame on a modern civilized society,” Dr. Renuka said.
Measles is a highly contagious disease caused by a virus in the paramyxovirus family. It is passed through direct contact and through the air. The virus infects the respiratory tract, and then spreads through the body. Children aged between six months and three years are more vulnerable to this disease.
The first sign of measles, said Dr. Renuka, is high fever, which begins about 10 days after exposure to the virus. The fever lasts four to seven days. A runny nose, cough, red and watery eyes, and small white spots inside the cheeks can develop in the initial stage. After several days, a rash erupts usually on the face and upper neck. In three days, the rash spreads, eventually reaching the hands and feet. The rash lasts for five to six days, and then fades.