BMC investigates measles outbreak

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is investigating a measles outbreak in central Mumbai after at least 40 fresh cases were reported from areas that reported high rates of refusal during the recent vaccination programme.

Eight suspected outbreaks have been reported since January. An outbreak is a cluster of at least five cases from the same area, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Health officials suspect one death may have been caused by the disease.

According to the BMC, none of the patients who have been clinically diagnosed with measles have been vaccinated against the disease. “These cases are from areas where people and school officials have repeatedly refused vaccinations,” said a senior official from the BMC’s health department. Clinical diagnosis is made on the basis of visible symptoms, like fever and a rash. The presence of the virus will be confirmed after tests by the National Institute of Virology (NIV).

Dr Padmaja Keskar, executive health officer, BMC, confirmed that they are investigating a measles outbreak.

Since measles is an infectious disease, experts said the new cases may pose a risk to others in the area. “These suspected new cases are an indication that the virus is circulating in these areas and the vaccination coverage is poor,” said Meeta Vashi, surveillance medical officer, WHO. The BMC has begun a survey in 500 households in the areas where fresh cases of measles have been reported.

Dr Keskar said that convincing parents in high refusal wards has been an uphill task. “There are rumours that the vaccination will cause impotency. We have addressed them, involved religious leaders, but that hasn’t led parents to change their minds in high refusal wards. These parents don’t realise they are hampering their child’s health,” she said.

In November 2018, the BMC started a campaign to vaccinate 25 lakh children between the ages of nine months to 15 years against measles and rubella. However, only 89% of the city was covered. Mumbai is among the five districts in Maharashtra to not achieve this target, said Dr Archana Patil, additional director, Directorate of Health Services. The WHO and government guidelines say 95% coverage is essential to prevent outbreaks.

First Published: Apr 23, 2019 03:09 IST

Updated: April 23, 2019 — 5:40 am