The current heat wave that has been hitting major states in Nigeria would make one wonder how little children manage to survive the harshness of the present weather condition. A frequently seen effect of hot weather conditions on children is the development of heat rashes, which are most times misconstrued for the presence of measles. It might interest you to know that measles, however, is not a heat-related illness and it isn’t just a rash. Measles is a viral infection of the respiratory system that is symptomized by fever and red rashes on the skin. Measles is also known as Rubeola/Morbilli and can affect anyone, but children under the age of 5 are more susceptible to the virus.
According to WHO, measles is the leading cause of vaccine-preventable deaths worldwide and one of the leading causes of death in children living in undeveloped countries. Measles is still rampant in many developing countries particularly in parts of Africa of which Nigeria is inclusive. In 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) attributed 89,780 deaths globally to measles infection, with most deaths occurring in children under the age of five. Despite the 80% global decline in deaths caused by measles infection, Nigeria still has the highest number of children that have not been vaccinated against measles. A joint report by WHO, UNICEF and CDC account for this as a total of 3.3 million children.
As at March 16th 2019, the Nigerian Center for Disease Control has reported 11603 suspected measles cases, 535 laboratory-confirmed cases and 27 deaths in Nigeria since the beginning of the year, which equates almost double the numbers recorded last year during the same period. Majority of the children affected are under 5 years of age of which Borno state ranks the highest amongst the states affected by the outbreak, with more than 3600 cases. Other affected states include Yobe, Katsina, Ogun and Rivers State.
The Nigerian government conducts measles campaigns across all the 36 states and the Federal Capital regularly. According to reports, the states currently affected by the outbreak were also covered by the campaigns with a total of 942,164 (95%) children vaccinated out of a target of 1,008,970 under five children targeted in the LGAs under these states.
With all said and done, the following questions arise; at a time where we have safe, free and effective measles vaccine, why are we still at risk of having a major outbreak? Why isn’t measles close to being eradicated in the country yet?
What are your thoughts?