Health Deptt steps up surveillance to prevent measles

Health Deptt steps up surveillance to prevent measles
File/ GK

Srinagar, Nov 25: Despite fewer measles cases, the J&K health department as a precautionary measure has stepped up surveillance in all the districts of the Union Territory and has asked them to administer additional vaccine doses, if needed.

Earlier, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had asked states and Union Territories to administer one additional dose of measles and rubella vaccines to all children, aged 9 months to 5 years, in vulnerable areas.

Dr Shahid, State Immunization Officer, told Greater Kashmir that Jammu and Kashmir is already on a high alert and ready for the vaccination drive.

He said that the surveillance and monitoring have also been increased and the health department has asked all the districts to stay alert and tackle the cases of measles. “But so far there are fewer measles cases in the UT,” Dr. Shahid said.

“There are some instructions related to the cases of measles among children.  If there will be even 10 percent of children who are nine months old and have measles, then in those cases, an extra dose of vaccination is recommended during six to nine months,” he said.

Dr Shahid said that usually, measles cases among children increase from November to March.

According to the doctors, the initial symptoms of measles include high fever, bloodshot eyes, runny nose, and tiny white spots on the inside of the mouth. Gradually a rash develops several days later, starting on the face and upper neck which slowly spreads downwards.

“Young children lacking proper nourishment including vitamins are at high risk of contracting measles, especially those with weak immune systems,” doctors said.

Recently, increased numbers of measles cases were reported from certain districts of Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, Kerala, and Maharashtra.

The Union Ministry in a letter said, “It is also clear that in all such geographies, the affected children were predominantly unvaccinated and the average coverage of Measles and Rubella Containing Vaccine (MRCV) among the eligible beneficiaries is also significantly below the national average.”

The Centre advised states and UTs, based on feedback from the meeting, to consider giving one more dose to all children aged 9 months to 5 years who live in vulnerable areas where the number of cases of measles has recently increased.

The special dose for Measles and Rubella for Universal Immunization Programme (UIP) reporting purposes is referred to as the one additional dose.

“This dose would be in addition to the primary vaccination schedule of the first dose at 9-12 months and the second dose at 16-24 months,” the advisory reads.

The “Outbreak Response Immunization” (ORI) mode will be used by the state government and the UT administration to identify vulnerable areas.

“All children under the age of six months and those under nine months will receive a dose of MRCV in areas where the number of cases of measles in the age group of fewer than nine months exceeds 10%. Since this dose of MRCV is being given to this cohort in “Outbreak Response Immunization” (ORI) mode, therefore, these children should also be covered by the first and second doses of MRCV as per the primary (routine) Measles and Rubella vaccination schedule,” it reads.

The health ministry stated that an active fever and rash surveillance mechanism needs to be strengthened for early case identification due to the disease’s annual surge in cases from November to March.

“Headcount surveys of all children aged 6 months to 5 years must be undertaken in the vulnerable outbreak areas to facilitate full MRCV coverage in an accelerated manner. The institutionalized mechanism of the District Task Force on Immunization under the chairmanship of the District Collector must be activated to review the Measles situation on a daily and weekly basis and plan the response activities accordingly,” it reads.

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