Measles epidemic kills over 1,200 in Madagascar

There have been a reported over 115,000 cases and over 1,200 deaths due to measles in Madagascar according to reports. This is one of the largest epidemics of a vaccine preventable viral disease in the recent times, say experts.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) the population that succumbed to the infection are mostly below the age of 15 years. Vaccination coverage for effective prevention of the infection through herd immunity according to the WHO is a recommended over 95 percent.

In Madagascar the vaccinated population remains 58 percent. This means that a large population remains susceptible to the infection, says WHO.

Image Credit: Ananchai Phuengchap / Shutterstock
Image Credit: Ananchai Phuengchap / Shutterstock

The present outbreak began sometime in September last year and gained momentum due to the prevalence of malnutrition among the children which affects around one in two children in Madagascar. Dr. Dossou Vincent Sodjinou, a WHO epidemiologist in Madagascar explained that this could be main reason for the spread and the fatality of the epidemic.

He said in a statement to the Associated Press, “Malnutrition is the bed of measles.” “Immunization is not the only strategy for the response to this epidemic.

We still need resources for care, monitoring and social mobilization,” he said. “The epidemic unfortunately continues to expand in size, though at a slower pace than a month ago,” Sodjinou added. Poor accessibility to the vaccines is another reason cited by the experts for the spread and mortality of the epidemic.

According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), US are also facing a measles threat. There have been a reported 387 cases of measles since January this year to March.

Cases have been reported from Washington, Texas, Oregon, New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Missouri, Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, and Connecticut says a bulletin from the CDC released on 28th of March this year.

In contrast there have been 372,120 and 86 cases respectively throughout the year in 2018, 2017 and 2016 respectively.

Inadequate vaccination remains a major problem in the US as well with the rise of anti-vaxxers who propagate the anti-vaccination conspiracy theories deterring many parents from vaccinating their children against the vaccine-preventable infections.

The CDC also says that these outbreaks have resulted from travellers who have brought the infection into populations with inadequate vaccine coverage.

The agency said, “These outbreaks are linked to travellers who brought measles back from other countries such as Israel, Ukraine, and the Philippines, where large measles outbreaks are occurring. Measles is still common in many parts of the world including some countries in Europe, Asia, the Pacific, and Africa.”

According to the CDC two doses of the measles vaccine can be 97 percent effective against the infection. As a result of the epidemic in Madagascar, the WHO has started a vaccination campaign last month to vaccinate 7.2 million children between the ages of 6 months to 9 years. Free medications and support has been sent to regions most affected by the disease from the Madagascar’s health ministry.

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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