A measles epidemic in the Republic of Congo has infected 800 people and killed 32 in Pointe-Noire, the country's economic hub, a newspaper reported on Friday.
“This is really disturbing given that a vaccination campaign (against measles) could only begin on June 22,” said Alexis Elira Dokekias, the director general of health services in the Central African country.
Measles is a highly infectious disease that mostly affects children. It is characterised by a rash, runny nose and high fever. It reduces children’s resistance to illness and makes them more likely to die when they are malnourished and suffering from other diseases.
The disease can be prevented through vaccination. The World Health Organisation (WHO) says recent immunisation efforts have resulted in a 74 percent reduction in measles deaths globally.
However, Dokekias said there has been poor vaccination coverage in the Pointe Noire Kouilou region in southern Congo which explains the current outbreak, according to the report in the Les Depeches de Brazzaville.
The measles outbreak comes at a time when the country’s health services are trying to deal with an epidemic of Chikungunya fever which has infected more than 4000 people in the southern districts of the capital Brazzaville.
Chikungunya fever is a viral illness that is spread by the bites of infected mosquitoes. The fever lasts from five to seven days and frequently causes severe and often incapacitating joint pain which sometimes persists for much longer periods but is rarely life threatening.
Congolese health authorities have advised the population to improve their sanitation and rid their neighbourhoods of stagnant water where mosquitoes breed.