A total of 108 children were admitted to the hospital last year for contracting measles. Two of them died later as a result of complications from the disease.
This year, 27 cases have already been reported at the TTH between January and February, thereby raising concerns of the possibility of fresh outbreaks.
During a visit to the Children’s Ward of the TTH, the Daily Graphic learnt that almost each week, children were brought to the hospital with symptoms of measles.
The two paediatric consultants in charge of the children’s ward, Dr Anthony Amankwa Amponsem and Dr Hassan Mumuni said they had confirmed most of the cases as measles.
They said, somewhere last year, the hospital noted that there was an outbreak of the disease in Tamale and surrounding communities and therefore instituted mechanisms to manage the situation.
“We allocated a separate ward for measles admissions because the disease is contagious,” said Dr Amponsem, who is the head of the Paediatric Faculty of the hospital.
“Till date, we still get new cases, but it appears the numbers are reducing,” he further stated.
At the time of the visit, there were three babies with their mothers isolated in the ward reserved for measles patients.
“We brought her here on Sunday,” said Bintu Issahaku, mother of six-month old Hajara Habib, who had some sparse rashes on the head and neck and had calamine lotion smeared all over her body.
She said her daughter experienced a rise in body temperature and when they brought her to the hospital, she was diagnosed of measles, which is called “Gbankuagu” in the local dialect.
Another mother, Sadia Mohammed who was assisting a nurse to administer some medications for her seven-month-old son, Tipagya Abdullah Andani, said they had been in the hospital for three days.
Baby Tipagya still had some rashes on his buttocks.
“His condition is improving because the rashes are gradually drying up,” she stated with some sense of relief.
Measles is described by medical experts as an infection of the respiratory system caused by a virus. Symptoms of the disease include rashes, cough, runny nose, fever and red eyes.
The disease is said to be highly contagious and spreads through fluids from an infected person’s nose or mouth. Health officials concede that vaccination is the most effective way to prevent the spread of the disease.
In Ghana, babies are immunised against measles when they are nine months old. They are eligible for another dose when they reach 18 months.
It appears, however, that many babies are getting infected with the disease before they are nine months.
In the view of Dr Ken Sagoe, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the TTH, if the trend becomes widespread, the health service may need to shift the time of measles vaccination to six months to give babies better protection.
He explained that the situation where children who had already received the vaccine but had contracted the disease may be due to a number of factors.
“Probably, the vaccine was not properly administered or its potency was reduced due to improper preservation,” he stated.
Dr Sagoe said some children could also have immunity deficiencies and this would make them more susceptible to such conditions.
He appealed to parents and school authorities to quickly send children to the hospital when they develop symptoms such as fever, runny nose, catarrh and rashes.
Meanwhile statistics from the paediatric unit of the TTH revealed that measles was the fifth highest cause of admission, coming after malaria, pneumonia, malnutrition and acute gastroenteritis.
Story by Nurudeen Salifu