Fighting Pakistan’s measles epidemi

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“I have been working now for more than two decades and I’ve not seen a measles epidemic of this severity,” says Doctor Raza Hasan, as he shows me around the measles isolation ward of the Lahore Children’s Hospital.

The ward is so packed with babies and young children that they are sharing beds. At one stage, up to 70 new patients were arriving at the hospital every day.

They are covered in rashes and burning with high temperatures, some fighting for life.


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Their parents don’t take them to doctors, they don’t get any treatment and so when they come here…. there is not much we can do.”

Dr Raza HasanLahore Children’s Hospital

In one corner, a boy lies motionless on his back, his eyes rolled back as flies crawl across his face.

At least 40 children have died in this hospital since the epidemic spread from southern Pakistan to Lahore and other parts of Punjab province at the beginning of the year.

The burden of dealing with the epidemic weighs heavily on Dr Hasan, who tells me stories of families attacking medical staff at the hospital after discovering their children had died.

While measles itself is rarely fatal, it can lead to life-threatening complications such as meningitis and pneumonia, particularly in developing countries where malnutrition leaves many children with low immunity.

“Some of them are arriving very late at the hospital,” says Dr Hasan.

“After developing complications at home, their parents don’t take them to doctors, they don’t get any treatment and so when they come here…. there is not much we can do.

“Some are in the final stage of life or already dead with meningitis or pneumonia,” he goes on.

But while this may be true, it is not the whole story.

It does not explain why so many children in Pakistan are contracting measles in the first place._67900139_parents

2013-06-08

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