DR Congo Declares End to Measles Epidemic

A young girl receives medicine before she is vaccinated on Day 1 of the vaccination campaign. Monga, Orientale province, Democratic Republic of the Congo. June 1, 2016. © Diana Zeyneb Alhindawi for MSF

Authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have declared the end of a 25-month outbreak of measles that claimed the lives of more than 7,000 children aged under five.

For the past month, we are able to say that this epidemic has been eliminated from across our territory,” Health Minister Eteni Longondo told a press conference on Tuesday.

“We can say measles no longer exists in the DRC,” Longondo added.

Whilst international health partners are yet to confirm this, the announcement follows a huge vaccination campaign that reached at least 18 million children in 2019.

The DRC has been experiencing recurring outbreaks for the last decade but the infections increased significantly in June last year and quickly overwhelmed the country’s health system.

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Health workers have over the last year simultaneously battled measles, vaccine-derived polio, cholera, coronavirus, two Ebola epidemics and the bubonic plague.

Measles is a highly contagious viral disease that attacks mainly children. The worst complications include blindness, brain swelling, diarrhoea, and severe respiratory infections.

Over the years, the disease has been rolled back across the world with a cheap and effective vaccine, but low rates of immunization among a community can cause infection to spread quickly.

“Routine vaccinations will continue in order to prevent the virus from bouncing back”, Longondo said.

The first cases of measles in the latest outbreak were recorded in June 2018. As of January this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) had recorded more than 335,000 suspected cases of the disease, of which 6,362 were fatal.

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