NIGERIA: Measles kills 165 children in Katsina state

Sunday, March 30, 2008

A measles outbreak in northern Nigeria’s Katsina state has killed 165 children in the last three months and infected more than 3,000 children, according to health officials.

”[Children have] contracted the diseases in 34 local government areas in the state since January,” Katsina state’s director of disease control, Halliru Idris, told IRIN by telephone.

The state government has set up three new measles treatment centres and an 11-man emergency response committee to identify affected areas. The team is also trying to procure vaccines and conduct an immunisation campaign, according to Idris.

“We have realised that 90 percent of infected children have not been immunised,” he said

“We have lobbied the federal government [about the need for more measles vaccines and it] has responded by sending us a consignment of 66,000 vials”, Idris said.

But he added that many parents in the state are fearful of immunising their children. The state has produced announcements for local radio to explain why immunisation is important and has called on local chiefs and imams to talk to their communities about the disease and its risks.

WHO estimates that around a quarter of a million people, mostly children, die from the disease each year.

Measles is an air-bone viral infection. Its symptoms include fever, sore eyes, rashes, sneezing, coughing and convulsions which can lead to nervous disorders, deafness, paralysis and death.