Measles Outbreak

The ongoing year has been tough so far in terms of diseases impacting children. The polio resurfacing is bad news we all are coming to terms with, and now there is a measles outbreak in Punjab where 14 children have lost lives and many are under treatment in hospitals. Before this, there was an outbreak-like situation in Karachi in February when two big children’s hospitals started receiving a high number of children affected by measles or showing early symptoms. This is a worrisome situation and it reflects an oversight on the part of doctors, hospitals administrations, and the provincial governments.

Early preventive alerts and regular reporting from the health department to other administrative arms of the provincial machinery must be a routine thing but from this outbreak, one thing is clear. The reporting and communication are lacking and there is a general callousness that is deadly when it comes to outbreaks.

Last year, we saw enough evidence of why hospitals must have communicated in a timely manner and asked for additional resources. In Karachi alone, and in just two of its hospitals, 106 children died of measles. This year, we should have been more prepared; not for the outbreak but for prevention. It is a sad state of affairs to see vaccine-preventable diseases claim the lives of children. Pakistan has dedicated huge sums and resources to awareness about essential vaccines that children need, only to be met with dogmatic beliefs that dictate people to avoid vaccination. This attitude is one of the major reasons the outbreaks still recur. Common knowledge on early prevention and self-treatment is also minimal and when met with over-loaded hospitals, many children cannot get the care they deserve.

A quick notice taken by the Chief Minister of Punjab might save the children under treatment and might improve the chances of controlling the outbreak. All actions following the notice must be effective and focused only on saving lives.

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