Three days on: Doctors suspect measles outbreak, toxic fumes responsible for Keamari deaths

Detailed report issued by Sindh Health department says young children among most-affected group
<p>Health officials collect samples from a resident of Ali Mohammad Goth. PHOTO: HAMIDUR REHMAN/SAMAA TV</p>

Health officials collect samples from a resident of Ali Mohammad Goth. PHOTO: HAMIDUR REHMAN/SAMAA TV

Three days after it emerged that over a dozen people had died in 20 days in a small locality of Keamari district in Karachi, doctors and district authorities have narrowed down the cause of the deaths to an outbreak of measles and toxic fumes from surrounding illegal factories.

At least 15 residents of the Ali Mohammad Goth area of Keamari District have died within a month, while at least 34 are still suffering from symptoms.

But the silver lining is that there have been no deaths in the three days that district administration, health and environment officials have spent in the locality.

Sindh Health officials have set up a camp in the locality of 935 residents which lacks even a single government-run dispensary. The closest health center available to residents is a private hospital.

From December 26 to January 25, around 18 residents died after complaining of high fever, sore throat and shortness of breath. However, the Sindh health department has now narrowed the cases to 15, noting that a foul smell in the area started after January 5, following which the bulk of deaths were reported.

Deaths took place within five to seven days of symptoms appearing, locals said.

The report by the Sindh health department said that the most-affected group were between two to four years of age. Around 40 (81%) of infected people were in the age group of less than 11 years.

All the children were unvaccinated against polio, measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases.

The most common symptoms of the fatal illness were fever, cough and shortness of breath.

Other symptoms included pneumonia, redness of eyes, burning of eyes, itching in eyes, headache, nausea, dry mouth, dizziness, abdominal cramping.

Of the 49 who exhibited any of these symptoms, 26 were living in six houses located close to factories.

The factories, from where the foul smell was suspected to be emanating, were working with rubber, plastic, stone, powder, and oils. They were involved in plastic works, making grease from used motor-vehicle oil and stone and powder factories developing iron from Chinese stone ore.

They have since been sealed, and the foul smell in the area has dissipated.

Suspected measles outbreak

During an active search in the community, the report said that teams observed some cases of suspected measles.

“Chance of infected person can not be excluded due to incubation period,” the report noted, adding that a measles outbreak cannot be ruled out until the confirmation of blood samples.


The report noted that the district administration, and health and environmental authorities took action in the area including sealing around six illegal factories operating in the area while the remaining factories shut down voluntarily.

The health authorities set up a medical camp in the area and took samples.

At the same time, vaccination for measles and, on Saturday, polio was carried out in the area.

The environmental authorities have taken samples for analysis as well.

District health official Dr Mohsin said that their teams have been active in the area for three days, during which no deaths occurred.

Keamari toxic gas

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