Measles cases in unvaccinated children rise in Malappuram

A Central team is expected to visit Malappuram soon in the wake of around 200 measles cases being reported from the district in recent weeks, especially among unvaccinated children, even as public health experts have called for an alert against the contagious disease.

According to Health department sources, a majority of the infections are in Kalpakanchery grama panchayat (48), followed by Pookkottur grama panchayat (13) and Malappuram municipality (6). There are cases in panchayats such as Mankada and those in the coastal belt such as Niramaruthur. The patients are in the 5-17 age group, but there are no severe cases. Officials pointed out that most of these patients are from areas where local residents have resisted vaccination.

Both doses vital

The first dose of the measles vaccine is given to children aged nine months and the second dose is given to those aged between 16 and 24 months. Around 88% of the targeted children have taken the first dose in the district. However, many have reportedly missed the second dose. K.K. Purushothaman, Professor, Pediatrics, MES Medical College Perinthalmanna, said, “Only 85% of protection is ensured through the first dose. If there is a spread of the infection, those who have missed the second dose and aged below five are highly susceptible to it. When those aged below two get the infection, they are likely to have more long-term complications. The measles virus will remain in the brain in an altered form. After some five-eight years, they are likely to get a neurological disorder called subacute sclerosing pan-encephalitis, which affects the central nervous system. In two-three years, the patient will die.”

Pandemic impact

According to health officials, around one lakh targeted children are yet to get the first dose and around 1.25 lakh are yet to get the second dose in the district. The last measles-rubella vaccination campaign was held in the State in 2017, when children aged up to nine were covered. Many children born after that have not been vaccinated. Routine immunisation took hit in the past two years due to the pandemic too. The department has set up squads in local bodies to cover the unvaccinated children. Campaigns are being held involving people’s representatives and social organisations to reach the target.

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