The number of people with measles is increasing in eastern Balochistan. A Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) medical team in Dera Murad Jamali has treated 159 patients since late December, and there have been two measles-related deaths in health facilities supported by MSF in Jaffarabad and Nasirabad districts.
To cope with the increasing number of patients, an eight-bed isolation unit has been set up in Dera Murad Jamali hospital to treat patients who are suffering complications. Some 35 such patients have received treatment over the past two weeks. In addition, treatment kits have been distributed to places where MSF runs mobile clinics, including Mir Hassan, Usta Mohammad, Dera Allah Yar and Sobhat Pur.
“Our mobile medical teams are reaching out to communities to identify people with measles symptoms in the catchment area of health facilities that we support,” says Dr Muhammad Shoaib, MSF’s medical coordinator in Pakistan. “These people are then referred for treatment aimed at preventing complications such as respiratory infections.”
Across Pakistan, there has been an increase in the numbers of recorded measles cases over the past two months. More than 150,000 children died from measles-related complications in 2011.
“Measles is an extremely contagious illness,” says Dr Shoaib. “If not treated in time, it may result in serious medical complications and even death, especially amongst malnourished patients. In eastern Balochistan, where malnutrition rates are relatively high, chances of complications are even higher.”
Symptoms include a rash, which appears 10 to 14 days after exposure to the virus, as well as a runny nose, cough and eye infection. “We urge people to be vigilant and seek treatment if they are exhibiting symptoms,” says Dr Shoaib.
MSF has been working with the Department of Health in its hospital in Dera Murad Jamali since 2010, providing emergency obstetric care, a 24-hour delivery room, a neonatal ward, a paediatric ward, a therapeutic feeding programme and a health education programme.
MSF has been working in Pakistan since 1986, with Pakistani communities and Afghan refugees affected by armed conflict, natural disasters or who lack access to medical care. MSF teams are currently providing free emergency medical care in Kurram Agency (FATA), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Sindh provinces.