Unicef stopping measles spread in Vanuatu
Unicef attacks measles before it spreads across Vanuatu.
Unicef in Vanuatu says it hopes a vaccination campaign will limit the spread of measles in Port Vila after the first case of the contagious illness was recently confirmed.
The head of Unicef in Vanuatu says as soon as they heard about the measles outbreaks in neighbouring countries they began immunising young children and health care workers in preparation.
Diane Araki told Jenny Meyer about the current measles situation in Vanuatu.
DIANE ARAKI: We have one lab confirmed case of measles, that was a connection with the Solomon Islands outbreak. We have a few more that perhaps have some clinical symptoms but they haven't been lab confirmed at this point. They're under quarantine, I guess we could call it that, they're staying home. We know though that measles is very, very contagious and if it's made it's way from the Solomons, you know we assume that there's measles now present in Vanuatu. The good thing though is that prior to this time, as soon as we heard about the outbreak in Federated States of Micronesia and of course the Solomons, the Ministry of Health and the development partners, Unicef, WHO, made a concerted effort to have a small mop up campaign. That means immunising children under the age of two that have not been immunised against measles, they were immunised. We've immunised in schools, we're immunising currently health care workers. And so hopefully we're going to contain it so it doesn't spread outside of Efate. So right now it's only in Port Vila actually.
JENNY MEYER: Can you tell me, the people who are affected at the moment, are they all young children or are some adults involved?
DA: No the oldest that's been clinically confirmed is I think 12 or 13 and then the youngest is 18 months.
JM: So you're confident that that earlier immunisation programme that you kind of bumped up as a preventative measure is likely to be effective, are you?
DA: Yes, we are quite confident in that. Because now it's been close to three weeks since the initial report. And one would assume that we would have had many, many more cases. You know we've also upped the surveillance. So that means that health care providers, schools, parents, anybody that has symptoms, you know they're reporting. The surveillance team from the Ministry of Health is going out to observe to see if actually they meet a clinical definition. And with the measles, red measles is the one that we're concerned about, you'll get a runny nose, you get conjunctivitis, red eyes, you'll often have a cough. And then of course the rash that usually starts on the face and moves to the trunk and to the limbs after that. Now it's not usually life threatening, measles in itself; however it's the secondary infections, especially if children are malnourished, that they can pick up pneumonia quite easily and then this is usually where we see deaths in low income countries.
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