The UNICEF announced Friday that children in Kenya and Ethiopia are at risk of a measles epidemic. Ethiopia has had more than 17,584 cases of measles in 2011, with 114 deaths. The WHO urges measles vaccination of young children to combat the situation.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is particularly concerned about the spread of measles and water-borne diseases, such as acute watery diarrhea in Ethiopia and Kenya. Measles is caused by a virus and is very contagious. It can be spread by droplets in the air. Common symptoms are fever, nasal drip, sore throat, dry cough, infected eyes, and light sensitivity. The most characteristic symptom is a very extensive skin rash.
Political unrest and lack of resources in many areas prevent sufficient vaccinations to protect the entire population. The spread of measles is worsened by conditions of crowding and poor sanitation, often found in these areas. Due to widespread fighting and political unrest, there is a constant movement of people, some into refugee camps with squalid living conditions.
Measles were thought to be largely eradicated in the United States, due to the development and widespread use of a measles vaccine. The CDC announced that the month of May brought 118 U.S. cases, probably as result of traveling.
WHO Spokesman Tarik Jasarevic says the situation in Ethiopia is particularly critical. “Taking into account the size of the population in the worst hit areas in Ethiopia, WHO estimates that two million children under five are at risk of measles, and already since the beginning of the year, there were 5,000 cases reported of measles,” said Jasarevic. “More than three million of children under five should be screened for malnutrition and given vitamin A supplements.”
The World Health Organization says nearly nine million people in the worst affected areas are at risk of water-borne diseases, such as acute watery diarrhea. Although no cholera cases, so far have been detected, it warns some five million people are susceptible.