Smallpox Outbreak WHO finds no truth in Indian reports on Bangladesh

bangladeshFollowing Indian newspaper reports of sudden outbreak of smallpox in Bangladesh and Myanmar border areas, World Health Organisation (WHO) has generated feverish activity among the health workers in the country although not a single patient has been found in last three days' search. The West Bengal government has even issued a smallpox alert throughout the border, a report says.

On information from regional WHO officials in New Delhi, the WHO country office in Bangladesh is searching with the help of the health workers of Expanded Immunisation Programme (EIP) in the remote areas of the country. "So far we can say that it is just a rumour. We have found nothing in last three days but our search is going on," said Dr Biwas MK Zaman, national professional officer (Epidemiology) of WHO.

If the matter is found to be true it would be a big incident for the world as the last case of smallpox was found in 1977, he said. In Bangladesh the last case of smallpox was reported in 1975. WHO announced total eradication of smallpox from nature in 1977 and they stopped their worldwide smallpox vaccination programme in 1982. Smallpox killed some 300 to 500 million people in the 20th century.
Right now no country including Bangladesh has the smallpox vaccine in their stock, WHO sources said, adding that the laboratory of WHO head office has the germ to develop the vaccine again. "If we find a case right now we would quarantine the patient," Dr MK Zaman said. According to the recent reports published in several newspapers in India, smallpox and measles have been spreading among children in Burma-Bangladesh border areas. Local health workers said many children in Maungdaw township of Myanmar are now suffering from the diseases, which broke out in the area at the beginning of last month.

Indian media reports from border town Nila in Teknaf stated that many children in the area are suffering from smallpox and measles. Bengali newspaper Anandabazar reports the sudden outbreak of smallpox in Rajshahi also.

The WHO officials said that they have been monitoring the situation since last Thursday. "Our health workers have conducted extensive search at Nila in Teknaf but they did not find anything. We are also keeping in touch with the WHO office in Myanmar, they would inform us if they find any case," said Dr MK Zaman. Meanwhile, Kolkata Newsonline put up news on May 31 that the state government has issued smallpox alert throughout West Bengal after receiving preliminary unconfirmed reports of the disease from areas bordering Bangladesh and Myanmar. The chief medical officers in all the districts, especially those bordering Bangladesh, have been alerted and asked by the state health department to be on the lookout for the symptoms of the disease. Source: The Daily Star, June 03, 2007

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