Weekly Trust

Why measles keeps ravaging North

Malama Amina lives with her five children in the rural village of Tashan Kafinta in Danja Local Government Area of Katsina state. About four days ago, three of her children got infected with measles after mingling with infected children in the neighborhood.

She took them to a small dispensary in neighboring village of Kokami with the hope of getting them treated for the disease, but the dispensary is ill-equipped to handle such situation and she had to seek help elsewhere. According to the mother of five, as at the time she left her village, over 100 children were infected but could not yet make it to the hospital. “Many are likely to die if help doesn’t get to them on time,” she cried.
At the Hasiya Bayero Pediatric Hospital in Kano metropolis several kilometers away hundreds of parents were seen with infected children waiting to see health officials.
A nurse at the hospital who wants to remain anonymous said over 50 women visited the hospital daily even as the hospital is not the only pediatric hospital in the state. About an hour before Weekly Trust gets to the hospital one of the patients had died. A nurse who preferred anonymity said the condition of the child has deteriorated before he was brought to the hospital. “Most of the parents don’t report at the hospital on time as such the disease had devastating effect on them and most of the children were not also brought for immunization,” she said.
In far away Zamfara State, Zainab Murtala sat beside her two-year-old son at the King Fahad bin Abdul Aziz Hospital, Gusau. She told Weekly Trust that they were admitted in the hospital five days ago for measles.
 “We noticed some symptoms and   were strongly advised to come to the hospital for treatment, because initially we did not understand that it was measles   until   we saw some rashes appearing all over his body,” she said.
Few beds from her was Asma’u Aliyu whose son was also infected by the disease. She told Weekly Trust that he contracted the disease as a result of mingling with other infected children at her sister’s wedding.
“Had I known that there were some infected children there, I would not have attended the wedding, because this disease is communicable. Your child can easily get infected from simple contact with other infected children,” she regretted.
Across the ward, cries of emaciated, pale looking measles patients, mostly children below the age of three rented the air.
The state was the highest hit with 19 deaths in the latest attack by measles across the northern states.
Weekly Trust gathered that some parents especially in the rural areas resort to self medication at homes before coming to the hospitals and superstitious beliefs play major roles here because some people still believe that measles cannot be cured in the hospitals or with orthodox medicine.
Further investigation revealed that some remote rural communities do not have access to the vaccine. It was gathered that due to difficulties in reaching such communities, they are often left without the drugs.
Initially, Hadiza Muhammad, a house wife has no intention of bringing her two-year-old child to the hospital until when she and her husband realized that all sorts of self and native medications would not help matters.
“We started giving him raw fish and then lizard excreta, but his health condition was worsening day by day as such we were warned by our neighbour to as a matter of urgency take him to hospital for proper treatment.
“However, we were aware that it is a communicable disease, so we decided to isolate  him so as not to infect other children in the house or the neighbourhood,’’ Hadiza further explained.
The matron of the ward, Mrs. Rahila Umar told Weekly Trust that children with measles are treated and closely monitored and their parents are properly counseled on how to take good care of the infected children.
“Even though there is no mass admission, measles cases are received and treated   daily despite the fact  that  nine months old children are undergoing routine immunization and symptomatic treatments of respiratory tract infections,” Medical Director of the hospital, Dr. Sabitu Magaji Tsafe has said.
 Weekly Trust’s investigation further revealed that cases of measles are more rampant in the rural areas because of lack of awareness especially on preventive measures and superstitious beliefs.
A visit by weekly Trust to some health facilities in three out of the six local government areas in Niger State  where  some children were reportedly hit by the epidemic indicated that most of the affected children were only treated and discharged.
Data shows that nine children were reported to have died out of the 145 who were infected by the disease following the outbreak in Niger State recently.
A close source in the Niger State Ministry of Health told Weekly Trust that Bosso, Chanchaga, Edati, Mokwa, Lapai and Paikoro were the Local Government Areas in the state   mostly affected by the outbreak of the disease and adequate health facilities to treat and retain patients have been in shortage.
In the same vein, when some health workers at  the Comprehensive Health Center,  Maikunkele in Bosso and Paiko in Paikoro as well as Minna General Hospital in Chanchaga  LGAs  were contacted,  they  told Weekly Trust that none of the victims  brought was hospitalized. Rather, they were treated and discharged like a case of first aid instead of comprehensive treatment.
Weekly Trust reports that mortality rate has continued to rise steadily across the North since the last official statistic of 34 deaths was made public.  
In Kebbi state, 19 deaths had been confirmed with some attributed to meningitis. According to Dr. Sani Yusuf , a Director in the Kebbi State Primary Health Care Development Agency, “between January and Febuary ending,   2,375 cases of measles outbreak were recorded in 13 local government areas. We have 18 cases and about eight deaths from meningitis.”
In Kwara State, no fewer than 25 cases of measles hadbeen reported and treated, according to investigations by our correspondent. However, no casualty has been recorded according to state health officials.
The state Commissioner for Health, Alhaji Abdul Kayode Isa told Weekly Trust that the 25 cases were recorded from five local government areas out of the 16 local government areas in the state, saying, however, that the situation is seriously under control. According to him, the 25 cases recorded had been treated and there is no casualty.
  In Kaduna State, inadequate supply of measles vaccine and poor routine immunization had been identified as the major factors responsible for outbreak of measles in the state.
The outbreak of measles was earlier reported in five wards in the metropolis including Barnawa, Kakuri, Kinkinau and Tudun-Wada.
Speaking with one of the pediatric doctors, Dr. Iliya Mercy at the Gwamna Awan General Hospital, she said “we have a couple of them on admission. Some of the patients come from Nassarawa, Kakuri and even from Kawo.
“We admit some and others we don’t especially those who so missed the routine immunization.”
She said that her interaction with mothers revealed that most of the time they don’t get their children vaccinated for measles at nine months due to non-availability of the vaccines especially at primary health care centres.
 “They said   by the time they go on about two or three appointments and they don’t still get the vaccines, they forget about the immunisation and forge ahead with their lives only for the children to come down with measles in later months or years,” she explained.
As the scourge continues, three children had been reported dead and 18 cases   recorded in Ningi and Dambam Local Lovernment Areas of Bauchi State.
The State Commissioner for Health Dr ,Abubakar Sani Malami and the Caretaker Committee Chairman of Ningi Local Government Area Alhaji Sa’idu Saleh and the Executive Chairman of State Primary Health Care Development Agency Dr Nisser Ali Umar separately confirmed the incidents to Weekly Trust in Bauchi.
Dr. Malami said “what we have in Bauchi State is not an outbreak, but we have recorded 18 suspected cases of measles in Dambam Local Government Area of the state. Already, government hassent adequate drugs like Vitamin A and antibiotics to the affected area and everything is under control.”
On the other hand, in Nasarawa State, two children died and more cases are being recorded. As such cases are unfolding; some mothers told Weekly Trust that they have been relying on patent medical dealers for medication of measles.
“I didn’t know it was measles, I was buying drugs from a patent shop, but it didn’t stop and that is why I came to the hospital,” said Hajara Yakubu, mother of two-year-old Fatima.
Chief Medical Director of the Dalhatu Araf Specialists Hospital, Dr. Ahmed Yakubu Ashiki said over 20 cases had been recorded in the hospital so far.


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