Health June 17, 2019
Measles epidemic declared in the DRC

By Fabian Sutch-Daggett - World Healthcare Journal

With cases of the infection up by 700 per cent, nearly 90,000 cases of measles have been reported in the DRC since January.

In addition to the ever-worsening Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) which has now spread to Uganda, health ministry officials this week declared a measles outbreak spanning nearly 90% of the country, totalling 87,000 suspected cases since the beginning of the year. This measles epidemic is the deadliest since the disease made a strong resurgence in the DRC in 2011.

Medicins sans Frontieres (MSF) states that measles in the DRC has claimed the lives of more than 1,500 people, at the time of publication. The organisation is urging countries and international health groups to coordinate urgent efforts to help the DRC, emphasising the vital need for vaccines and supplies.

Measles itself is a highly infectious airborne illness that is spread when an infected host coughs or sneezes. The virus itself is also quite hardy, able to survive on surfaces outside of the body for 4-5 hours. This makes it a bigger problem in poorer areas, where sanitation and running water is less available.

Measles can be prevented by the MMR vaccine, which is given to children in the UK as part of the NHS childhood vaccination programme.

Health officials across the globe say vaccination programmes are the only way to prevent measles spreading out of control. Countries such as the U.S and the U.K have eliminated the disease, as a result of such vaccination programmes, with 42 out of 53 European countries achieving elimination status. However, due to increasing rates of anti-vaccination movements, the disease is being seen more and more frequently in countries with vaccination programmes. This year, the U.S has seen the largest measles outbreak in 25 years.

Speaking to the MSF a resident of the Kasaï province detailed the effects that the measles outbreak is having in rural communities.

“Measles has caused so much damage in my village. There were deaths in almost every house. Some families have lost two, three or even four children. ”

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