Measles claims 15 livesBy: JANA-MARI SMITH
A MAJOR killer in Namibia this year was measles, which claimed the lives of at least 15 people by February 2010.
The measles outbreak spread slowly at first, across the border from Angola in July last year, with the first cases reported in the Engela district.
By late 2009, a number of measles vaccination campaigns took place in Namibia, containing the disease in some areas but not halting its spread in other places.
By January 15 2010, however, the outbreak had affected more than 1 000 people in the Kunene Region alone, the most heavily afflicted area. The outbreak prompted a visit by top health officials to Kunene in mid-January, including Dr Richard Kamwi, Minister of Health and Social Services.
Issues that led to the rapid spread of the outbreak included a lack of vaccines arriving in a timely manner.
At the time, epidemiologist Puume Katjiuanjo told Nampa that only five per cent of the needed vaccines reached the Epupa Clinic in 2009, increasing vulnerability to infection among children.
A lack of transport to reach remote outposts was another element that contributed to the difficulty of halting the outbreak in the area.
At the same time, however, the number of patients admitted to a measles treatment centre set up at the Opuwo State Hospital had dwindled, with admittance numbers coming down from between 50 and 70 patients seeking treatment at one time to about 30 patients.
A massive vaccination campaign began to contain the outbreak.
Several issues cropped up during the measles outbreak and the Ministry itself in February admitted that the outbreak, which took months to control, was a “wake-up call and reality check” for health authorities.
At a meeting of health officials in February 2010, Minister Richard Kamwi said the measles outbreak in Kunene Region had “given us a bold opportunity to re-think and build better and robust systems that will address these challenges”.