Government administers measles vaccination after outbreak in prisons

Nyarugenge prison is one of the affected prisons. Sam Ngendahimana.

The Ministry of Health has launched a mass immunisation drive against measles in prisons across the country as it moves to contain the outbreak in correctional centres.

This is part of the various measures the ministry has deployed as it battles to contain the outbreak of measles that has left scores of inmates infected.

The vaccination also targets prisons and other staff of the correction centres.

The most affected prisons were Nyarugenge prison better known as Mageragegere and prisons in Muhanga, Rwamagana and Ngoma districts.

According to the Commissioner General of Rwanda Correctional Services, George Rwigamba, at least 100 people were affected from each of the prisons in question.

“I can’t say it is an outbreak because it is not a big number of people who were contaminated, it is about one hundred in each {of the mentioned prison}, it is a small number compared to 9,000 inmates we have in each prison,” he said

He added that: “We stopped visits to ensure that the virus does not spread outside.”

According to Dr. Jose Nyamusore, the Head of Epidemic Surveillance and Response (ESR) Division at Rwanda Biomedical Centre, the Ministry of Health has been dealing with the outbreak so that there are no deaths.

“We first treated those contaminated and then offered mass vaccination to all inmates, prison guards and other staff members including doctors,” he said on Monday

He added that inmates as well as prison managers were also sensitised about the disease, its causes and symptoms.

“We can’t say it is totally contained, we are on the alert to see whether there are new cases. The situation is however good and we are on regular supervision,” he said.

He also urged prison management and the general public to be vigilant to get treated to avoid preventable deaths while promoting hygiene in their compounds.

About the disease

Measles is caused by a virus in the paramyxovirus family and it is normally passed through direct contact and through the air.

 The virus infects the respiratory tract then spreads throughout the body. It is a human disease and is not known to occur in animals.

According to the World Health Organisation, accelerated immunisation activities have had a major impact on reducing measles deaths.

During 2000– 2017, measles vaccination prevented an estimated 21.1 million deaths.

Global measles deaths have decreased by 80 per cent from an estimated 545, 000 in 2000 to 110, 000 in 2017.

Signs and symptoms

The first sign of measles is usually a high fever, which begins about 10 to 12 days after exposure to the virus, and lasts 4 to 7 days.

A runny nose, a cough, red and watery eyes, and small white spots inside the cheeks can develop in the initial stage. After several days, a rash erupts, usually on the face and upper neck.

 Over about 3 days, the rash spreads, eventually reaching the hands and feet. The rash lasts for 5 to 6 days, and then fades. On average, the rash occurs 14 days after exposure to the virus within a range of 7 to 18 days.

Most measles-related deaths are caused by complications associated with the disease. Serious complications are more common in children under the age of 5, or adults over the age of 30.

The most serious complications include blindness, encephalitis (an infection that causes brain swelling), severe diarrhoea and related dehydration, ear infections, or severe respiratory infections such as pneumonia.

Severe measles is more likely among poorly nourished young children, especially those with insufficient vitamin A, or whose immune systems have been weakened by HIV/AIDS or other diseases.