PNG authorities look to counter measles outbreak
Papua New Guinea's Department of Health is probing various remote parts of the country to counter a measles outbreak which began in 2013.
Papua New Guinea's Department of Health is probing various remote patrs of the country to counter a measles outbreak which began in 2013. The department this month dispatched a team to a remote part of Chimbu province where a measles outbreak reportedly killed six people since late last year. The department's preventable diseases surveillance officer, Barry Ropa, spoke to Johnny Blades about the challenge of countering measles in PNG.
BARRY ROPA: we had an outbreak start in October 2013, it started in West Sepik and eventually spread out over the country last year and we were responding to those outbreaks throughout the country. But we still have pockets of measles in the country now. As long as we have susceptible people who have not been immunised exposed to measles, we will continue to have measles and then spread the virus around. So we have Western Province, in the North Fly area, continue to have one or two every month with measles which the laboratory confirmed in December last year but a few cases more have been seen around that part of the province.
JOHNNY BLADES: So you've sent up a team with vaccinations (to Chimbu province)...
BR: Yes with the vaccines.
JB: There's no chance you'll be able to get around everyone, is there? It's so remote that it's hard to get around all the affected areas anyway, isn't it?
BR: There is a mobile population... the population is nomadic, and it will be difficult for the health workers but I think actually when you go to a remote place like this, they get a message that health workers are coming, they just come together (to be treated and vaccinated). In the province they've been there before so they've sent a team over there. So I think they'll be over there for a week or two to deliver the vaccines and treat those who are ill.
JB: How do you recommend to the communities how they can prevent measles?
BR: From the national level, we strongly advise provinces to do more advocacy for awareness that the routine vaccine at six and nine months is important. But in a time like this when there's an outbreak, the age ranks can differ depending on the epidemiological situation so our advice during the outbreak period is three months to less than five years to have the children vaccinated. And considering the vaccine and the manpower and supplies of the vaccine, we advise that people should give the vaccine at three months to five years during outbreak. Otherwise, in the province, do more outreach and do the routine programme and we will not have the outbreaks.
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