Congo: Measles Epidemic

29 March 2011 (IRIN) – A cholera outbreak in Katanga Province is likely to exacerbate the measles epidemic that for the past six months has been sweeping through the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Aid workers warn it is now likely to get out of control and spread from five provinces to the rest of the country.

“Children who contract cholera and haven’t received any inoculations against measles will be more vulnerable to the disease. We need to act quickly to control the epidemic,” Ayigan Koffi, health coordinator of the World Health Organization (WHO) in the DRC, told IRIN.

“We are working on ways to increase and better coordinate the response. If nothing is done, the epidemic is likely to spread further,” Koffi told IRIN.

Measles is a highly contagious infection of the respiratory system that is only preventable by vaccination and can be fatal in children if not treated. According to Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) data, measles can kill between one and 15 percent of un-vaccinated children who contract the disease and up to 25 percent of malnourished or vulnerable groups with limited access to healthcare.

WHO says the total number of cases since the beginning of the year has reached 6,524 cases, with 33 deaths.

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