Health officials in the country say a measles outbreak is rapidly spreading across the country. Already, some 52 health districts in all the ten regions in the country are affected with deaths registered because of the gravity of the illness, especially when it occurs in an area where children are suffering from malnutrition. Even though measles had almost been eradicated in the last two decades in Cameroon, the disease has resurfaced in some health districts in the past few years.
According to the Permanent Secretary of the Enlarged Vaccination Programme (PEV) at the Ministry of Public Health, Dr. Marie Kobela, the current measles epidemic has been provoked by the fact that some children have never been vaccinated or where not effectively vaccinated. The Permanent Secretary says this is a vaccine that is administered to all babies when they are nine months old and which grants life protection against measles.
Dr Kobela explained how she has noticed that most mothers forget the 9th month vaccination rendezvous which is supposed to be administered to their children when they are nine months old. She noted that when children are born, their mothers are very effective in carrying out the routine vaccination but towards the 9th month, the vaccination coverage drops because most of them forget to come for vaccination.
Dr Kobela says the measles virus is ever present; it is left for parents to vaccinate their children. Due to PEV surveillance network, the Ministry of Public Health is able to know that there is an outbreak of measles which requires an alert against the disease. Although an exact figure of the number of measles cases has not been established by PEV, cases have been confirmed by major laboratories in the country. This, according to health officials, indicates that a measles outbreak is in the country. Heath districts concerned have been called to carry out an investigation on the exact number of children infected and the state of their health. It is after the investigation that the government will know what to do in terms of organising a preventive vaccination campaign nationwide.
Measles, which could be considered a childhood infection, is caused by a virus which is contiguous. It starts with fever, runny nose, cough, red eyes and sore throat. This is followed by a rash that spreads over the body. Medical personnel say measles virus is highly contagious and spreads through the air through coughing and sneezing.
Measles have no particular treatment but the treatment of symptoms such as reducing the fever temperature, giving more vitamin A to those infected; encouraging mothers to breastfeed their children more. It is rare for babies before nine months to be infected with the measles virus, which is why the vaccine is given to children when they are nine months. Parents with children infected with the virus are called to immediately take them to any health district