140,000 infants in Pakistan fall prey to Rotavirus diarrhoea annually
08 September, 2013
KARACHI: Given Pakistan's annual birth cohort of 5.5 million, it is estimated that 140,000 infants in Pakistan suffer from severe rotavirus gastroenteritis every year with many dying annually from dehydration. Unfortunately, only private sector healthcare providers can vaccinate against this virus.
Rotavirus is a major cause of diarrhoea throughout the world, which can be life-threatening for the children and highly distressing for their parents. Rotavirus diarrhoea readily transmits from environmental surfaces either directly or indirectly. It especially affects infants and young children who frequently put their hands and toys into their mouths.
It is worth adding here that out of the estimated 10.8 million child deaths under five years in 2000, approximately 600,000 (5.6%) died of rotavirus infection. Though various studies highlight that mortality due to rotavirus in Pakistan is increasing and more than 100 children die everyday due to Rotavirus diarrhoea. The actual burden of the rotavirus infections and genotypes has not yet been determined because information in this regard is not available here.
AKUH Department of Paediatrics and Child Health Chair Professor Dr Anita Zaidi said, "Research studies on children with severe diarrhoea needing intravenous hydration or hospitalisation in Pakistan has shown that rotavirus is the main culprit causing between 20-35% of all severe cases in children."
Many cases if not adequately treated result in death. These studies have been done in 5 different hospitals in Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi, and Peshawar, as well as in rural areas of Sindh and katchi Abaadis of Karachi, she informed.
Rotavirus has been found to be the most common cause of severe diarrhoea in every hospital and clinic studied. The incidence is highest in children less than one year of age, who are also at highest risk of death.
Global Enteric Multi-centre Study (GEMS) funded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation confirmed these findings, in which Pakistan also participated, along with 6 other countries in South Asia and Africa. The best way of prevention of severe rotavirus diarrhoea is to use the available vaccine, and to give the baby only mother's milk until 6 months of age. Currently rotavirus vaccine is available only in private sector. However, government is making efforts for introduction in national immunisation programme.
G1P is the most common rotavirus strain combination globally responsible for 64.7 percent of rotavirus diarrhoea among children, while the most common circulating strains identified in Pakistan are G1 and G94. Rotavirus vaccination can help prevent morbidity and mortality by this illness. Therefore, it is highly recommended that parents should get their children vaccinated against this disease.