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Saturday 22nd October 2016

Congo in need of measles vaccinations

29th March 2011

A measles epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo is progressing so rapidly that doctors will soon be unable to stop it, according to the medical charity Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF).


Gael Hankenne, head of the MSF mission in Congo, said that the disease was spreading like wildfire, rapidly spiralling out of control, even though the charity had vaccinated more than 1.5 million children since last autumn.

But a lack of UN support for the vaccination effort meant that MSF doctors were not able to stop the virus from spreading northward through the country.

According to MSF reports, more than 21,000 people have been infected with measles since the epidemic began last autumn, and at least 210 people have died.

Florence Fermon, MSF head of vaccinations, said that the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) had not responded to her alerts about the epidemic.

But only last year, the WHO vowed to counter the resurgence of measles not only in Africa, but in Europe and Asia as well.

Fermon said that the WHO had not shifted its operations to match the epidemic, and had only given MSF an insufficient number of vaccines.

Measles is a highly contagious virus, and sypmtoms of measles infection include fever, rash, runny nose, and coughing.

The disease mainly affects children under five, in whom it can lead to pneumonia and malnutrition, killing up to 15% of all infected children.

Fermon said that it would be impossible for doctors to wipe out the measles outbreak in the Congo, unless health organisations stepped in to give urgent help.

Last year, the WHO and UNICEF both issued their own warnings about African epidemics, including measles.


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