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Vaccination campaigns launched in quake zone

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    Vaccination campaigns launched in quake zone

    * 12:05 07 June 2006
    * news service
    * staff and AFP in Yogyakarta

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    Campaigns to vaccinate more than a million Indonesians against measles and tetanus in the zone ravaged by a massive earthquake on 27 May were launched on Wednesday, UN officials said.

    Health officials have warned that conditions in the affected area could lead to the rapid transmission of measles among children, while tetanus typically appears in adults 10 to 15 days after such a disaster.

    World Health Organization spokeswoman Harsaran Pandey said a local official had launched the campaigns at Banyu Soco village in Yogyakarta, one of the areas affected by the quake.

    "About 100 children under five were given measles vaccinations and 100 adults were given anti-tetanus vaccines. It's just a starter," she told the AFP news agency from the village. "This will now continue and we will try to cover all the affected areas."
    Tetanus shots

    David Hipgrave, head of the health programme at the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), says 320,000 children were being targeted in Central Java and Yogyakarta, while at least 1.2 million people aged 15 to 60 were expected to receive tetanus shots over the next two weeks.

    The measles effort is part of a national immunisation campaign that began in eastern Indonesia in April and has been brought forward in Central Java and Yogyakarta due to the disaster. The 6.3-magnitude earthquake killed nearly 5,800 people, injured more than 36,000 people and left more than 340,000 homeless.

    While isolated, clinically diagnosed cases of measles have been reported, no outbreaks have occurred, Hipgrave said. But Pandey said there had been nine cases of tetanus. "We suspect the number is rising. The figures are certainly going up," she warned.

    Hipgrave said that such a tetanus campaign in the wake of an earthquake was fairly unusual but commendable. "It's very responsible because so many people have wounds infected by dirt or rubble," he said, noting that older men were particularly at risk as they were likely to have missed free vaccination via childhood campaigns. Pregnant women in Indonesia also typically receive free vaccinations.
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