FIJI MEASLES OUTBREAK WORRIES WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION

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By Sallyshni Devi

SUVA, Fiji (FijiSUN, April 6) - The World Health Organization yesterday raised concern on the measles virus, which again poses a threat to Fiji, especially the children who are most venerable. World Health Organization representative Doctor Chen Ken said they do not need to remind the people of Fiji about the enormous suffering and death that measles can bring nor the impact this disease has on this country.

"One has to read the historical accounts of the Misila Levu in the late 1800s to sense the great loss and misery that Fiji experienced in the past from the measles virus and the impact it had on this country," said Doctor Ken.

According to him, the World Health Organization fully supports the Fiji Ministry of Health’s strategy to conduct a mass measles immunization campaign that will target all children between six months and six years to stop the disease?

He reminded the public that for this campaign to be successful, all children in the target age group must be vaccinated and urged parents to ensure this happens. Doctor Ken said World Health Organization has been working closely with the Fiji Ministry of Health and other partners – such as UNICEF, Center for Disease Control U.S.A., JICA, AusAid – from the first day measles was detected in Fiji. "We will ensure that future generations of children never again face the risk of death from this killer disease and I hope that with the support of the community we can ensure that every child in Fiji receives their [measles] vaccine," he said. Doctor Ken said health authorities were working hard to ensure this is the last outbreak of measles in Fiji.

One third of Fiji’s population was lost during a measles outbreak in 1875.

And the Ministry of Health said it was taking this latest outbreak as a serious threat to the health of the people of Fiji. Ministry chief executive officer Dr. Salimoni Tuqa said the effects of measles dates back to the first outbreak in 1875 where thousands of people died. "This historical lesson is a constant reminder to how devastating measles can be and so our response to the outbreak is a national priority," said Tuqa.

"The Expanded Program of Immunization has always been one of the cornerstones of the public health services in Fiji." According to Tuqa, the program focuses on seven infectious diseases, namely diphtheria, measles, hepatitis, pertussis, polio, tetanus and tuberculosis. He said that the Fiji Immunization Policy and Cold Chain Policy were developed in 2004 and represent important frameworks for future action. Tuqa said new vaccines, new schedules, and training programs have been or are soon to be introduced but we must always be vigilant and continue to strengthen our routine immunization program.

"To counter the effect of the outbreak, a mass measles campaign is being implemented in the three divisions." However, United States Ambassador Larry Dinger said the recent measles outbreak in Fiji is the first to occur in the past eight years. Dinger said the Western Division has the highest number of cases at 71 while the Northern Division has reported a single case.

April 7, 2006

FijiSUN: http://www.sun.com.fj/

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