By NewsDesk @infectiousdiseasenews
While more attention, but not nearly enough, has been given to the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), in 2019 to date, the number of fatalities due to measles has been more than double the EVD total.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reports (computer translated) 183,837 suspected cases of measles and 3,667 deaths. Since the beginning of the year, 1,760 EVD deaths were seen in that same period.
“Usually, we organize a countrywide vaccination campaign for measles every three years,” says Dr Stéphane Hans Bateyi Mustafa, regional coordinator for the expanded programme for immunization in North Kivu. “But this time we’re late. In North Kivu, many human resources and funding sources were directed into the Ebola outbreak. Other routine activities have been underresourced.”
Measles vaccination campaigns, which involve bringing lots of people together, are also risky in Ebola settings and require putting in place extra measures like temperature screening. This takes up yet more resources.
In Goma, and especially in Kasika, health staff have been overwhelmed by Ebola surveillance and risk communication activities. In just one of Goma’s three health zones, Karisimbi, which contains the Kasika neighborhood, 1 139 cases of measles have been reported since the start of the year. This is double the number of cases for the whole of North Kivu in 2018 and almost five times those in 2017.
A scaled-up measles vaccination campaign, with funding from UNICEF and technical support from WHO, is under way. The campaign aims to reach children born since the previous vaccination campaign and others who may have been missed in routine vaccinations.
In addition to large measles and EVD outbreaks, the DRC is also battling outbreaks of cholera and monkeypox.