A measles epidemic in the northern Nigerian city of Kano has killed over 200 children since the start of December 2007, health workers said Wednesday.
"The outbreak started in December (2007) and now it has become an epidemic because in every public hospital you visit you will find the paediatric ward full with children infected by this disease. At the moment we are full here," Na'ima Saminu, a nurse at state-run Hasiya Bayero pediatric hospital said.
"I believe more than 200 children have died since the outbreak started and no fewer than 4,000 children have fallen sick," she said.
Health experts blamed the outbreak on parents' failure to take their children for routine immunizations.
"Parents are responsible for this mess we are in," said Mahmud Mustapha of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), who supervises immunization activities in Kano and in six other northern states: Katsina, Jigawa, Kaduna, Zamfara, Sokoto and Kebbi.
"They do not care to have their children immunized against measles, which was not recorded in the last two years following a house-to-house (vaccination) campaign we had throughout the north in 2005," Mustapha said.
The house-to-house campaign was aimed at children of up to nine months, Mustapha said, adding that parents had become reluctant to take their other children to hospital for routine immunizations.
"We receive between 10 and 20 (measles) patients a day. What we are dealing with is an epidemic and something urgent needs to be done to contain it," Abdullahi Hamza, a medical doctor at Kano general hospital said.
However Kano state health officials tried to play down the severity of the outbreak, saying only a few hundred children are infected.
"We have recorded 600 measles cases since December but we don't have any figures relating to deaths," said Ashiru Rajab, director of disease control in the state's health ministry.
Measles is an air-borne viral infection among children and its symptoms include fever, eyesore, rashes, sneezing, and coughs. In severe cases can lead to convulsions and loss of consciousness.
If not treated it can cause permanent disablilities like blindness, brain damage and paralysis.
The NPHCDA's Mustapha said his agency is preparing for another house-to-house measles campaign across the north this month to curb the spread of the disease, which has been reported in three other states: Kaduna, Katsina and Jigawa.