Many cases of measles, a transmissible viral disease infecting both children and adults, have lately been reported in some parts of Banke district, including the Nepalgunj Sub-metropolitan City. News reports have it that several wards of this sub-metropolis have seen an outbreak of the disease, causing much panic and distress to the locals. Around 200 patients suffering from measles have recovered over the past couple of days while dozens of others are undergoing treatment in different healthcare facilities there. Though Banke was declared a fully immunised district in March 2021, such cases were confirmed when the National Public Health Laboratory tested blood samples of suspects. What is more worrying is that a 31-month-old child died of measles in Nepalgunj about two weeks ago. Many of those infected with measles were found to be unvaccinated against the disease.
Following the detection of the cases of measles, the government has launched a mass vaccination against this deadly viral disease in the suspected areas. The vaccination drive has targeted six-month-old babies to 15-year-old children. Thus, such a prompt action has prevented the spread of the disease and saved the lives of a lot of people. Doctors say that measles spreads through fluids from the nose, mouth or throat of the infected. The disease is caused by a virus in the paramyxovirus family. The virus infects the respiratory tract. Then, it gradually spreads throughout the body. This is a human disease and it is not known to occur in animals. Some major factors for the outbreak of measles include a low vaccination coverage, migrating population, and dearth of public awareness of the importance of vaccines. Infections related to measles are frequently detected in various parts of the nation. The coverage of immunisation is much lower among people belonging to underprivileged communities than others.
Initial symptoms of measles include a high fever, runny nose, a cough, red and watery eyes and small white spots inside the cheeks. Any person can start showing such signs in about 10-12 days after exposure to the virus. After several days, a rash erupts on the face and upper neck. The rash spreads to the hands and feet. It lasts for five to six days, and then fades. However, serious complications are more common in children under five or adults over the age of 30. Blindness, encephalitis, severe diarrhoea and related dehydration, ear infections, or severe respiratory infections like pneumonia are the severe complications of this disease. Poorly-nourished young children, especially those with insufficient vitamin A, or whose immune systems have been weakened by HIV/AIDS or other diseases are more likely to suffer from severe measles.
The responsible authorities must address the issues regarding vaccination and raising massive public awareness against the disease. They also need to develop a mechanism that ensures vaccination to all as unvaccinated young children are the most vulnerable to measles and its complications. Unvaccinated pregnant women are also at high risk. Even those who have been vaccinated but did not develop immunity are likely to be infected with this disease. Being a highly contagious, serious disease caused by a virus, measles takes a lot of lives every year globally. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), over 140,000 people died from measles in 2018. Most of them were children under five even when the availability of a vaccine. Meanwhile, Minister for Health and Population Padam Giri has said that no child should miss vaccination against measles. Addressing the locals of the Fultekra area of Nepalgunj Sub-metropolitan City on Sunday, Minister Giri said that vaccination against the measles epidemic would be made effective.