The Directorate General of Health Services said on Monday that the unknown disease that caused death of nine children at Sitakunda in Chittagong in the past week was finally diagnosed as measles.
At a press conference at the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research, health services director general Abul Kalam Azad said, ‘The laboratory tests on blood and throat swab collected from sick children proved that the measles was the cause behind the death of the nine children.’
None of the 388 people of the ethnic minority Tripura community at Tripura para under Sonaichhari union had ever been under the government health coverage, including immunisation, and they had never been administered with any vaccine in their life, he said.
He said that the death of the children could be avoided if they were hospitalised earlier.
Abul Kalam Azad said that 87 children were now taking treatment at Bangladesh Institute of Tropical and Infectious Diseases at Fauzderhat and Chittagong Medical College Hospital and they were improving.
Nine Tripura children died in four days until July 12 suffering from fever coupled with breathing problem, vomiting, rash, diarrhoea and blood in stool and 87 more Tripura children were admitted to two hospitals with the disease until Sunday.
The doctors treating the sick children failed to diagnose the disease until Monday and they primarily suspected that an unknown disease spread in the affected area.
Chittagong Medical College Hospital director brigadier general Jalal Uddin said that they primarily suspected that it was measles virus that infected the children.
‘But as nine children died in a short time, we became puzzled and thought if any unknown disease made outbreak...we went for the laboratory tests by IEDCR to confirm if any other disease made outbreak,’ he told New Age over phone.
A team of Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research visited the affected locality on July 13 and collected samples from the patients for laboratory tests.
The samples were examined at the institute’s laboratory and National Polio and Measles Laboratory and tests found that the sick children were suffering from measles, Azad said.
The director general apologised for the failure of the health services to reach the affected community with government health services.
‘It is our misfortune that some ethnic community people remain out of our health services and we are expressing our grief for that,’ he said.
He said that the affected area was out of the ‘immunisation micro plan’, usually taken for maximum coverage of vaccination.
Chittagong civil surgeon Azizur Rahman Siddiqui at the press conference said that he could not shrug off his responsibility for the death of the children.
He promised to bring the ethnic minority community under the health services coverage.
Measles is a highly contagious infection caused by the measles virus. Measles vaccines are administered to children in Bangladesh free of cost.
Children are administered with the first dose of the measles vaccine at the age of nine month and the second dose at the age of 15 month.
The overall vaccination coverage in Bangladesh is 82.5 per cent while the measles coverage rate is 87 per cent, according to World Health Organisation.
WHO medical officer on immunisation and vaccine development in Bangladesh Stephen Chacko said at the press conference that 165 people were infected with measles in 2016 with no death case.
He said that the ideal coverage rate for measles vaccine was 95 per cent.
Disease Control director Sanya Tahmina, IEDCR director Meerjady Sabrina Flora and primary health director Jahangir Alam Sarker were also present at the press conference.
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