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Measles Epidemic In Pakistan Worst In Living Memory
May 31, 2013
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Parts of Pakistan are in the middle of a measles epidemic - the worst the country has seen in recent memory.

More than 14,000 cases have been recorded in the province of Punjab alone. And as the video at the top shows, many are children who are extremely sick, as the measles lead to illnesses such as pneumonia and meningitis.

"I haven't seen (an outbreak) like this in my lifetime, and I've been working for more than two decades now. But I haven't seen a measles epidemic of this severity," Dr. Raza Hasan of The Children's Hospital in Lahore told the BBC.

In that hospital alone, more than 40 children have died so far this year. Across Punjab, more than 120 children have died.

An organization called the Young Doctors Association says the actual number of dead could be higher, as cases from rural areas may not have been reported.

Health officials admit the main reason for the epidemic is a failure to vaccinate the full population, as more than 40 % of people haven't had the necessary shots.

An emergency vaccination program has been set up in the city of Lahore, with more than two and a half million children inoculated in just over a week.


Hospitals have also set up isolation wards, quarantining children who have measles so other kids don't get infected.

"We have set up a separate ward for measles and we have totally equipped its emergency section. We have set up a medical store right next to the emergency," Dr. Iftikhar Ali Mirza of the Mayo Hospital in Lahore told Reuters.

"Ever since patients started coming to us from January 15, we have had a plentiful supply of medicines despite various complications."

However, in other parts of Pakistan, they don't have the money to buy huge amounts of vaccine.

According to the Young Doctors Association, officials have only been able to buy seven million vaccines, when 30 million are needed, and a new shipment isn't expected for a few weeks.

measles-epidemic-in-pakistan-worst-in-living-memory-feature3.jpgThe Association also says the government hasn't moved quickly enough since the epidemic started four months ago.

It points out that the Health Department has yet to start an immunization campaign outside of Lahore, and cases are now being reported in 11 other districts of Punjab. In those regions, the epidemic could get worse as the number of cases is growing almost every day.

"We will be carrying out a campaign in those districts in June, during which around 12,000,000 children will be vaccinated. After all these efforts, there will definitely be a reduction in this outbreak," said Dr. Tanveer Ahmad, Director General Health Services of Punjab province.

There also concerns about storing the vaccine, because of power outages throughout the region.

This week, a health department spokesperson said everything as far as preserving the vaccine was good, as the department had 10 cold storage rooms in Lahore and 22 more in other districts.

However, health officials have asked the government to free up more.

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