Deadly Measles Outbreak in DRC Complicates Ongoing Ebola Crisis
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) this year, there have been over 2,700 deaths due to a measles outbreak. The outbreak has mostly affected children under the age of 5, with more than 145,000 suspected cases. The number of measles deaths is higher than the 1,700 deaths caused by the ongoing Ebola outbreak since last August.
The measles outbreak has complicated the ongoing response to the Ebola crisis. Ebola and measles have similar early symptoms, including fever, red eyes, and diarrhea. Due to a lack of resources, not all measles cases are laboratory tested and it can take two to three days for white spots to appear in the mouth to confirm a measles diagnosis. Waiting two to three days can be problematic when responding to Ebola. It is important to diagnose Ebola early in order to perform the necessary isolation to avoid spreading the disease.
There is also a very weak national vaccination system in the DRC for measles, leaving many children unvaccinated. To address this, the United Nation Children’s Fund and DRC’s Ministry of Health began a measles vaccination campaign in northeastern DRC. They vaccinated about 40,600 children.
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