Measles kills 14 children in Manicaland, mass vaccination launched

HARARE – At least 14 children have succumbed to measles while 72 cases have so far been recorded in Manicaland province’s Mutasa district, the Ministry of Health and Child Care said on Wednesday.

The viral infection was detected among children aged six months to 15 years in Mutasa district in April.

“To date, a total of 72 cases and 14 deaths have been reported. Of the reported cases, only nine had been vaccinated while the remainder had not been vaccinated or their vaccination status is unknown,” the ministry of health said in a statement.

Measles, commonly found in children, spreads through the air by respiratory droplets produced from coughing or sneezing.

Symptoms which include cough, runny nose, inflamed eyes, sore throat, fever and a red, blotchy skin rash do not appear until 10 to 14 days after exposure.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has been notified of the outbreak.

The health ministry said it had launched mass vaccination campaigns in Mutasa targeting the six months to 15 years age group regardless of their vaccination status.

“Health workers are carrying out an intensive door-to-door education campaign against this disease. All provinces are being encouraged to be on high alert and to report any suspected measles to the nearest health facility. Those who attended church gatherings especially in Manicaland during the Easter period should be on the lookout for suspected measles among their children,” the ministry said.

Officials maintain that “the situation is currently under control and people should not panic.”

The risk of developing severe measles or dying from complications of measles is very high in unvaccinated children. There is no known treatment to get rid of an established measles infection, but over-the-counter fever reducers or vitamin A may help with symptoms.

In April, the WHO and UNICEF warned there would be a global outbreak of child killer diseases this year due to lack of and disruption of mass vaccination programmes over the past two years owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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