Staff Reporter

Most of the ill children are unimmunised or partially immunised

Diarrhoea and tuberculosis have also been reported

Health workers had reported there were no cases of measles

Thiruvananthapuram: Vizhinjam is once again emerging as a hotspot for various infectious diseases in the absence of public health activities in the field and a total lack of monitoring by the Health Department.

The measles outbreak at Mukkola and Kuttippuram in the area has turned out to be one of the biggest episodes in the State in recent times, with over 104 cases reported and more coming in.

A few cases of diarrhoea and tuberculosis have also been reported.

The measles outbreak has come to light at a time when the Health Department has been trying to strengthen immunisation programmes and to generate more awareness of the need for immunisation.

Measles is a vaccine-preventable disease. The size of the outbreak indicates that a chunk of the children in the community are either unimmunised or partially immunised.

Most of those affected are adolescents.

But even as the disease was spreading, the health workers failed to report it to the district health administration.

Investigation

The health officials came to know of the outbreak after the Measles Surveillance Network investigated the matter on picking up the cases from Sree Avittom Tirunal (SAT) Hospital in the city.

Though the health workers reported that the immunisation status of the children was unknown, it has now been found that only one-third of them have been immunised.

“It is well known that there has always been stiff resistance to the concept of immunisation in certain pockets in Mukkola. Instead of creating awareness among the people of immunisation, the health workers have remained complacent.

Even as measles cases were being reported at SAT Hospital, the reports sent to the Integrated Disease Surveillance Project had no mention of measles at all,” a senior health official said.

The stand-off between field workers and those deployed under the National Rural Health Mission has not helped matters either.

Workers transferred

Till August-end, the health workers reported that there were no cases of measles. The outbreak that followed has resulted in the District Medical Officer issuing transfer orders to almost all field workers in the block.

Poor attention

Though much money has been invested in the area in developing a community health centre and under various heads through the mission, little attention has been given to the problems in the field.

The primary dose of measles vaccination is given to infants at nine months, while all other vaccines in the immunisation schedule are administered by six months.

Unless parents are highly motivated, measles vaccine administration is almost always missed, it is pointed out. The current outbreak is a result of the slackening of public health activities in the field.

Awareness programmes

As the outbreak is yet to be controlled, health officials have decided to conduct intensive immunisation awareness programmes and camps in the area.

Accredited Social Health Activists under the mission have been asked to visit houses and to bring more people to the immunisation camps.

It has been decided to air programmes on immunisation and health problems in Vizhinjam through Radio Health, broadcast through Ananthapuri FM of All India Radio.

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