Measles Outbreak: 42 People Killed in Northern Part of Nigeria

Measles Outbreak in Nigeria: Vaccines

Health officials in Nigeria are grappling with a recent measles outbreak that has impacted several communities in the northeastern part of the country. The outbreak, particularly concerning in Adamawa state, has resulted in a reported number of deaths, highlighting the importance of routine vaccinations.

According to the health commissioner of Adamawa state, Felix Tangwami, a measles outbreak in Nigeria’s northeastern region has claimed the lives of at least 42 individuals in just over a week. Tangwami disclosed on Friday that the outbreak primarily impacted two local government areas, with close to 200 suspected cases reported.

Measles is a highly contagious respiratory illness that primarily affects children. Symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose, and a red, blotchy rash. While a vaccine is readily available and highly effective, low vaccination coverage rates can leave communities vulnerable to outbreaks.

“The recent rise in Measles cases underscores the need for increased efforts to ensure widespread childhood immunization,” said a spokesperson for the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC). “Vaccination remains the most effective way to prevent measles and its potentially severe complications.”

In addition, at a media briefing, Felix Tangwami stated, ‘Measles vaccines have been distributed to those affected regions, and our field teams are actively working to contain the situation.

The NCDC is working with state health authorities to investigate the outbreak, identify those at risk, and implement control measures. This may include case identification and isolation, contact tracing, and vaccination campaigns in affected communities.

The World Health Organization reports that vaccinations have prevented over 50 million measles-related deaths since 2000.

Healthcare providers are urging parents to ensure their children are up-to-date on their measles vaccinations. The standard vaccination schedule recommends two doses of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine, typically administered at 12 months and 18 months of age.

“Vaccinating children on time is the best way to protect them from Measles outbreak and its complications,” said a public health official in Adamawa state. “Symptoms like pneumonia and encephalitis can be life-threatening, particularly in young children.”

However, frequent insecurity in numerous northern part of Nigerian states is frequently cited as the cause of interruptions in vaccination campaigns, exposing children to heightened vulnerability. Boko Haram attacks since 2009 has caused more than two million people being exiled from their Homes, deepened security woes in the northwestern Nigeria. Covid-19 has also participated in the disruptions of health system and vaccination programmes in parts of the country.

Jombo Tochukwu-Okoli, MSF medical activity manager at the Gwange Pediatric Hospital in the capital of the northeastern state of Borno, stated that an infected child has the potential to transmit the virus to approximately nine to twelve other unvaccinated children, highlighting the rapid spread among this demographic. The Nigerian government is expected to address the Measles outbreak and emphasize the importance of vaccination programs as fast as possible before it gets out of control.

Causes of Measles

Measles is caused by a single-stranded RNA virus called Rubeola Virus. This virus belongs to the Genus Morbillivirus within the Paramyxoviridae Family. Humans are the only natural host for this virus, meaning it can’t be transmitted from animals to humans.

The virus is highly contagious and spreads through the air when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. These airborne droplets can linger in the air for up to two hours or land on surfaces where the virus can survive for several hours. A person can contract Measles by inhaling the infected droplets or touching a contaminated surface and then touching their mouth, nose, or eyes.

Measles Symptoms

Measles symptoms typically appear in stages, following an exposure to the virus:

  1. Stage 1: Incubation (10-14 days): During this initial period, there aren’t any noticeable symptoms. The virus is multiplying within the body.
  2. Stage 2: Initial Symptoms (2-4 days): This stage often resembles a common cold and may include:
    • High fever (up to 104°F or 40°C)
    • Dry cough that can become persistent
    • Runny or stuffy nose
    • Sore throat
    • Inflamed eyes (conjunctivitis) that may be watery and light-sensitive
  3. Stage 3: Rash (3-5 days after initial symptoms): A red, blotchy rash is the hallmark symptom of measles. It typically starts on the face and hairline before spreading down the body over several days. The rash can be itchy and uncomfortable.

Other possible Symptoms:

  • Tiny white spots with bluish-white centers inside the mouth on the inner lining of the cheek (Koplik’s spots)
  • Muscle aches
  • Feeling tired and listless

However, it’s also important to note that measles complications can arise, particularly in young children or those with weakened immune systems. These complications can be severe and may include pneumonia, encephalitis (brain swelling), and even death.

What you should know

1. Lack of Vaccination: The most significant factor contributing to measles outbreaks is the presence of unvaccinated individuals or populations with low vaccination coverage. Vaccination provides immunity against the virus and helps prevent its spread.

2. Close Contact: Measles is highly contagious, and close contact with an infected person can easily lead to transmission of the virus. This is particularly true in settings such as schools, childcare centers, and households.

3. Weak Immune System: Individuals with weakened immune systems, such as young children, pregnant women, and individuals with certain medical conditions, are at higher risk of contracting measles and experiencing severe complications.

4. Travel: Measles can be introduced into new areas through travelers who are infected with the virus. Unvaccinated individuals who travel to areas where measles is endemic or experiencing outbreaks are at risk of contracting the virus and bringing it back to their home communities.

5. Crowded and Unsanitary Conditions: Living in crowded or unsanitary conditions can facilitate the spread of measles. This is often seen in refugee camps, overcrowded urban areas, and areas with poor access to healthcare and sanitation facilities.

6. Globalization: Increased globalization and interconnectedness have made it easier for infectious diseases like Measles to spread across borders, contributing to the global burden of the disease.

7. Misinformation and Vaccine Hesitancy: Misinformation about vaccines and vaccine hesitancy among certain populations can lead to suboptimal vaccination coverage, creating pockets of susceptibility where measles outbreaks can occur.

Addressing these factors through vaccination campaigns, public health interventions, and education about the importance of vaccination is crucial for controlling and preventing measles outbreaks.

The Bottom Line

In a nutshell,Measles is primarily caused by infection with the measles virus, which belongs to the paramyxovirus family. The virus is highly contagious and spreads through respiratory droplets from an infected person, typically through coughing and sneezing

If you suspect you or someone you know might have measles, it’s crucial to seek medical attention immediately. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent the spread of the virus and reduce the risk of complications.