ISLAMABAD – Out of six confirmed cases of measles in Islamabad, one patient died at Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) on Tuesday midnight.

Officials have been suspecting an outbreak of measles in Bhara Kahu as five children have been found with rash. Pims Executive Director Dr Riaz Warraich informed that the two years old Uzma from an area of Islamabad Capital Territory near Khanna Pul was admitted at the hospital with complications as she was suffering from measles and pneumonia too that is the second cause of death among children in Pakistan after diarrhoea. Some doctors viewed that the cause of death was not measles but aspiration pneumonia as the child’s two lungs were consolidated and she was brought with severe complications.

According to health officials, though, merely measles does not cause deaths and most measles-related deaths are caused by complications associated with the disease and complications of pneumonia and encephalic increase death rate. “If the child was brought during initial stage, her life could have been saved. Parents should be made aware about the complications and symptoms so that they bring their children to the hospital as soon as they find any symptoms of the disease,” said Dr Warriach.

Total six confirmed cases were reported from different areas of the country including Gilgit Baltistan, Chakwal, Sector G-7 and Islamabad Capital Territory. Two patients were discharged after recovery on Wednesday and three children including Abdul Samad, Onaiza and Huzaifa were kept in isolation at PIMS.

According to hospital officials, five suspected cases of measles were reported from Bara Kahu that can be an outbreak as according to World Health Organisation if five cases are reported from the same area the situation can be termed as an outbreak.  According to WHO officials the disease has caused 210 deaths in year 2012 in Sindh.

Officials maintained that the poor coordination between the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) and Capital Development Authority (CDA) Directorate of Health caused the breakout in twin cities and the EPI officials still awaiting a report from CDA Directorate of Health to start any vaccination campaign.  EPI National Manager Dr Zahid Larik could not be contacted for comments on the situation as did not return the calls of TheNation.

The World Health Organization confirmed that figures collected from various official sources and surveys provide evidence of the current outbreak of measles in different parts of Pakistan resulting from insufficient rates of routine immunization coverage. 

The Country Representative of WHO in Pakistan, Dr Guido Sabatinelli in a statement stated that the Government of Pakistan’s EPI, which is technically supported by WHO and UNICEF aims at protecting children aged 0-11 months by immunizing them against Childhood Tuberculosis, Poliomyelitis, Diphtheria, Pertussis, Hepatitis B, Meningitis, Haemophilus influenzae and Measles. The program also protects newborn against Neonatal Tetanus by giving TT vaccine to all pregnant mothers.

Unfortunately, as per the survey of Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement (PSLM - 2010/11) Pakistan’s Routine Immunization Coverage does not meet the optimal routine immunization rate of more than 80 percent. “Pakistan’s routine immunization coverage is close to 65 percent with only some important cities of Punjab recording a better performance,” the WHO Country Representative stated. He said, that the huge difference of routine immunization coverage between provinces, districts and cities is at the root of the current measles outbreaks.

The WHO recommended adequate steps both on emergency and long-term basis to the provincial governments to ensure that routine immunization coverage is made accessible to each and every child. “At an average, one single EPI vaccination center in a Union Council caters for a population of 20,000 to 30,000 which is simply not enough to cater for the total population of any Union Council,” remarked Dr. Guido.

As an emergency response to the outbreak in Sindh, the Provincial Health Ministry had started a large measles vaccination campaign targeting 2.9 million (29,00,000) children in eight districts of Sindh. “Measles campaign has been planned between December 31, 2012 and January 9, 2013 for 8 districts in Sindh; Sukkur, Khairpur, Larkana, Qamber-Shadadkot, Shikarpur, Jacobabad, Ghotki and Kashmore. During this campaign, children from the age of 9 months to 10 years will be vaccinated. “A total of 1,300,000 vaccine doses have been dispatched by the National Authorities to the 8 districts,” informed Dr Sabatinelli.