Health drives help push down infectious disease rates
September 10, 2019 | 9:40 PM
by Times News Service

Muscat: Immunisation drives in Oman led to a huge cut in infectious diseases in 2018, government data has revealed.

According to the National Centre for Statistics and Information, 2018 saw cases of viral hepatitis, whooping cough, chicken pox, mumps and measles drop by up to 89%. Chicken pox saw the biggest fall in the number of cases reported, with 9,241 in 2018, down from 18,967 the previous year, reflecting a decrease of 51 percent. The biggest drop in terms of percentage decrease was in mumps, with 1,390 cases reported in 2017 and just 151 in 2018, pointing to a decrease of 89.1 per cent.

A huge decrease was also recorded in cases of viral hepatitis, where cases dipped from 1,628 in 2017 to 593 in 2018, a fall of 63.6 per cent. Whooping cough cases decreased from 517 to 128, while measles fell from 97 cases to just 12.

Dr Pradeep Maheshwari, internal medicine specialist at NMC hospital said, “The Ministry of Health is working closely with hospitals to run immunisation drives, particularly in the interior areas, so that they can educate people on health.”

Dr Pradeep Maheshwari added, “A number of factors contribute to proper healthcare. Hygiene for example, reduces the risk of disease, while a proper diet builds good immunity.”

“In addition, there are more medical care centres such as clinics and hospitals being built, all of them with good specialist doctors, and people are encouraged to go to them should they feel unwell, because they will be able to provide the right diagnosis. Awareness drives are also being conducted in schools and colleges so that the next generation are also informed about the importance of good healthcare. Prevention is, after all, far better than cure.”

Doctors in Oman also said there were many simple methods parents and teachers could tell children to practice, as well as follow themselves, to keep infection levels low.

Communicable disease

Rohil Raghavan, regional CEO for VPS Healthcare Oman, said, “Any child who is suspected of having a communicable disease such as chicken pox should be first kept separate, so that they don’t spread infection.

“Schools in Oman are being stricter about this, and the moment they see a rash that looks to be the symptom of an infectious disease, the child is kept under isolation.”

He added, “Any time you have children coming back to the country from holidays, there are going to be cases, but isolation of these children by keeping them at home, for example, and not going to school, so that the infection does not spread, is a major way to keep infection levels low. There are the other usual infection control factors as well, such as avoiding crowded places when you are sick, or regularly washing

your hands.”

Raghavan went on to say, “The first thing we do is to educate parents by telling them that if children do have rashes which might be caused by infection, please keep them at home and do not send them to school. Please show any rashes to a doctor at the earliest opportunity. This sort of awareness has really spread among the community, and that has helped a lot.”

"The number of doctors and nurses working in Omani hospitals has also increased. The NCSI reported that there was a six percent increase in the number of doctors in 2018, with 21 doctors per 10,000 people, as opposed to 20 the previous year. The number of nurses had also gone up by 1.6 percent, with the rate now 44 per 10,000 population, compared to 43.7 in 2017.”

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