MSF Responds To Increase In Measles in Southwestern Pakistan

Cases of measles are on the rise in the eastern region of Pakistan’s Balochistan Province. An MSF medical team in Dera Murad Jamali has treated 159 patients since late December 2012, and two measles-related deaths have occurred in health facilities supported by MSF in the province’s 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 with complications. Some 35 complicated cases have been treated over the past two weeks. Treatment kits have been distributed to locations 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 patients with measles symptoms in the catchment area of our supported health facilities,” says Dr. Muhammad Shoaib, MSF’s medical coordinator in Pakistan. “Patients are then referred for treatment aimed at preventing complications such as respiratory infections.”

There has been an increase in the number of recorded measles cases across Pakistan over the past two months. “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, the chance of complications is high.”

Symptoms of the disease include a rash that appears 10 to 14 days after exposure to the virus, as well as runny noses, coughs, and eye infections. Worldwide, almost 200,000 children die each year from measles-related complications. “We urge people to be vigilant and seek treatment if they are exhibiting symptoms,” says Dr. Shoaib.

MSF has been working with Pakistan's 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 pediatric ward, a therapeutic feeding program, and a health education program.

MSF has been working in Pakistan since 1986, providing care to Pakistani communities and Afghan refugees affected by armed conflict or natural disasters, or who lack access to medical care. MSF teams currently provide free emergency medical care in Kurram Agency (FATA), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, and Sindh provinces.  

Dr Marianne Stephen (centre) together with midwife Anja Biemann(right) and the natioanl doctor examine a patient in the inpatient ward in the Dera Murad Jamali District Headquarter Hospital in eastern Balochistan, Pakistan. MSF supports the Dera Murad Jamali District Headquarter Hospital by providing emergency obstetric care, neonatal and paediatric inpatient care, as well as therapeutic feeding programme, to local and displaced population.
P.K. Lee/MSF