Measles is Spreading Once Again in Africa
Measles is once again on the rise in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), reported the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) on March 31, 2021. The recent upsurge has exceeded 13,000 measles cases since January 1st.
Previously, between 2018 and 2020, the worst measles epidemic ever recorded in DRC tore through the country. In just two years, more than 460,000 children contracted measles, and nearly 8,000 died from it.
Most of these fatalities were children under five years of age.
“Unfortunately, since the end of 2020, several provinces have started recording new increases in patients with measles, notably the North and South Ubangi provinces,” says Anthony Kergosien, coordinator of MSF’s emergency response team in the DRC. "We had to urgently send mobile response teams again to help stem the progression and save as many lives as possible."
"Since we arrived in Bosobolo in mid-February, we have been helping staff to care for their patients in eight health centers and in the general hospital to which complicated cases are referred," explains Faustin Igulu, who is leading the MSF project in Bosobolo.
“More than 1,200 patients have already been treated thanks to our support,” he adds. "The hospital’s capacity had been quickly overwhelmed, so we increased the number of beds where they could treat children, some of whom were in a very advanced stage of measles and associated malnutrition."
A nurse at the Bosobolo General Referral Hospital is providing care to a young patient with measles. North Ubangi, Democratic Republic of Congo, February 2021.
MSF also launched a vaccination campaign for 66,000 children in this isolated health zone, and the work is ongoing with a focus on those living in hard-to-reach areas of the DRC.
'Our teams also trained local health workers in disease surveillance to improve the early detection of new measles outbreaks. However, like many other health zones in DRC, the resources available to local health authorities fall far short of what is needed' says the MSF.
The DRC (Zaire) is located in central sub-Saharan Africa with a population of about 86 million.
Measles is a viral disease spread by coughing, sneezing, or direct contact with nasal or laryngeal secretions.
Children with the disease can face severe complications, as measles ‘erase’ their immune memory, putting their health and lives at risk for years to come.
The U.S. CDC says, 'Be aware of current health issues in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Learn how to protect yourself. Check the travel vaccines and medicines list and visit your doctor at least a month before your trip.'
Médecins Sans Frontières translates to Doctors without Borders. MSF was founded in 1971 in Paris. Today, it is a worldwide movement of nearly 65,000 people.