GENEVA (Reuters) – At least 922 children and young adults have died of measles in Madagascar since October, despite an extensive emergency vaccination program, the World Health Organization said on Thursday. Health (WHO).
The number of deaths is based on official figures, but they will probably be very incomplete, as well as the current total of infections, with 66,000, said Dr Katrina Kretsinger, WHO Expanded Program on Immunization, when a point of press.
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease that can lead to complications such as blindness and swelling of the brain and increase sensitivity to other diseases.
The Indian Ocean island is one of the poorest countries in Africa. In 2017, only 58% of the population had been vaccinated against measles. The absence of a large epidemic since 2003 also means that many have had no chance of developing immunity.
An emergency response has already vaccinated 2.2 million of the 26 million inhabitants, Kretsinger said. Some of them had already been vaccinated but had received only one injection. So we gave them the second injection, more classic, booster.
"We think this should go a long way in stopping the current epidemic," she added.
Madagascar has the highest rate of child malnutrition in Africa at 47%. According to the WHO, this disease can increase the risk of serious complications and deaths due to measles.
The disease can also make children vulnerable to life-threatening pneumonia or diarrheal diseases months later, said Katherine O'Brien, director of immunization, vaccines and biologics at WHO.
Madagascar plans to standardize its routine immunization program at two doses later this year.
(This story corrects the fifth paragraph by referring to the vaccination of 2.2 million children, not 22 million, following the clarifications of the WHO, and states that those who receive a reminder are also delete the PIX flag.)
Reportage of Stephanie Nebehay; Edited by Kevin Liffey