Dr. Mariama Murray, Child Health Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) deputy Programme Manager has in a press conference at the Ministry of Lands, Country Planning and Environment, Conference Room, 3rd Floor, Youyi Building, Freetown on Thursday 21st April, 2016 confirmed that Sierra Leone is currently suffering from a Measles Outbreak.
Dr. Mariama Murray said the current Measles Outbreak commenced in August 2015 in Kono district and has continued to spread in 2016 affecting 12 (86%) districts.
She said, in 2016, a total of 977 suspected cases with 64 laboratory confirmed cases and 815 confirmed by epidemiological linkage have been investigated. She confirmed that the majority of cases have been reported from Western Area, Bombali, Kenema, Bo, Koinadugu and Kambia districts.
She said most (90.7%) of the measles cases are under 15years of age with the highest (68.8%) proportion under five. She confirmed that there is still active transmission of measles with 32% of cases occurring between the ages of 5-15 years.
Dr. Mariama Murray confirmed that Sierra Leone is rolling out nationwide campaign in two phases. “We are starting with our focus on Western Area due to an unprecedented increase in measles cases.” She said. She confirmed the campaign will be held betweens 25th April- 01st May, 2016. She highighted, the campaign will also focus on the schools and all school going children under 15yrs will be receiving the measles marklate.
Dr. Murray, said the symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose, red watery eyes (conjunctivitis), and feeling run down (malaise). The blotchy rash unusual lasts 5 to 6 days. She said two or three days after the symptoms begin, tiny white spots (Koplik’s spots) may appear inside the mouth.
Dr. Murray furthered that measles is often a serious illness. Severe measles, she said, is particularly likely in malnourished young children, especially those with vitamin A deficiency, or whose immune systems have been weakened. She however confirmed that children do not die directly of measles, but from its complications. She said the likelihood age is children under the age of five or adults over the age of twenty.
Mr. Micheal A. N’dolie, EPI Surveillance Officer, World Health Organisation said measles is a viral disease infection hence has not specific treatment; management is purely supportive especially to prevent complications, bed rest, frequent feeding, plenty of fluid intake and control of fever.
He said measles is an acute and highly infectious illness transmitted through the respiratory droplets or contact with nasal and throat secretions of the person and can be transmitted four days before rash becomes visible.
Victor Salu, UNICEF Immunization Specialist said they are committed to providing the necessary victimisation throughout the process. He further called for more sensitization and asked the media to be more proactive in passing the message.
The immunisation exercise for children under 15yrs will start on Monday 25th April, and end on Sunday 1st May,2016 for children in Western Area and starting on Monday 9th May, 2016, ending on Sunday 15th May, 2016 for children in other districts.
The press conference was chaired by Lansana Conteh, Programme Manager, Health Education Division, Ministry of Health and Sanitation.