Delhi has witnessed a spike in measles cases over the last three months, with this seen as the first such jump in a decade.
The spike has prompted the Delhi Health department and civic agencies to conduct the first ground survey in slum areas to test both children and adults. With another 10 days to go for the survey, over 4,500 suspected measles cases have been found. So far, 450 people have been admitted to the Maharishi Valmiki Infectious Diseases Hospital (MVID) under the North Municipal Corporation in the last three weeks.
A total of 800 cases of measles has been reported this year, with 363 being reported from MVID hospital between January and March, an official said. Authorities at Delhi’s Department of Family Welfare said a preliminary report of the survey has been sent to WHO India experts. From May 5 to 21, 90 lakh people have been screened for measles, mostly in congested areas and slums. Half of these are children.
According to the report, 4,500 suspected cases have been identified, of which 1,120 were referred to hospitals and around 450 admitted immediately to MVID as confirmed measles cases.
The report stated that 3,300 cases were treated at home for complications such as respiratory infections, pneumonia, conditions suspected to be a result of measles.
Dr D K Dewan, director of the Department of Family Welfare, said, “Diagnosed cases of measles are treated only at MVID hospital, since it can spread to other children in routine hospitals. Figures from January to March at this hospital point to an unusual and unexplained spike in cases this year. So, we got our field staff to start conducting house-to-house visits, starting with the areas where the initial cases were reported.”
Dr Dewan said that 90 per cent of high-risk areas — Sangam Vihar, Mandawali, Mukundpur, Mustafabad and Karawal Nagar — have been covered. According to Health department figures, the capital has recorded 202, 217 and 173 diagnosed cases of measles from January to March in the last three years.
Authorities have started identifying trends from the diagnosed cases this year to ascertain the possible causes of the sudden spurt. “Most of the children we have confirmed with measles were between 6 and 8 years of age and migrated to Delhi from other states when they were about two years old. The measles vaccine has two shots, one that is administered after the 9th-12th month after birth, and the second after the 16th month. So, effectively they had missed the immunisation cycle,” Dr Dewan said.
What is worrying health experts more is the “significant number” of children who were detected with measles despite having been vaccinated. “We have sent blood samples to the National Centre for Disease Control to see if there is any mutation in the virus, which is not being controlled with the vaccine. While every virus has a spurt, the spurt in measles cases this year has come after 10 years. Routine cycles repeat every 2-3 years. We have also sent a report to the WHO about this,” Dr Dewan said.