The Government is struggling to vaccinate children against a measles outbreak in Mutasa District due to religious beliefs and topography.
At least 20 children have died, while more than 100 others have been infected by measles in the eastern part of the country. Mutasa District Medical Officer (DMO), Cephas Fonte, said:
Mutasa is a mountainous area, so some areas are hard to reach. We have some of our friends who are religious objectors, so it has been hard to break through to them, though they are slowly responding now.
I think by the end of next week, we would have achieved something.
Dr Alex Gasasira heads the World Health Organization’s country office in Zimbabwe said:
The vaccine is the best prevention. We are also strengthening surveillance, ensuring parents, and community members are aware and they report any child who has any symptoms suggesting measles.
We are also ensuring that opportunities for vaccination are enhanced. This we should do throughout the country not just in the affected communities because we know that measles is very, very transmissible; it spreads very, very fast.
Tariro Mhando, a public health officer from the University of Zimbabwe had this to say:
What we found out is most cases, the deaths that were recorded are not vaccinated and we have most cases in unvaccinated as well.
And only the few that have [been vaccinated] have mild symptoms.
Measles is a viral infection that’s serious for small children that spreads through the air by respiratory droplets produced from coughing or sneezing.
Measles symptoms don’t appear until 10 to 14 days after exposure. They include cough, runny nose, inflamed eyes, sore throat, fever and a red, blotchy skin rash.