DRC declares end of deadly measles epidemic

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The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has declared the end of a deadly measles epidemic that claimed the lives of more than 7,000 children under the age of five during a 25-month period.

Speaking at a news conference on Tuesday, Health Minister Eteni Longondo, told reporters that the epidemic is over, crediting a large-scale vaccination programme that immunised millions of children and infants. The death toll from the outbreak far exceeds that of the two-year Ebola outbreak, which killed 2,287 and the current coronavirus pandemic, which has so far killed 255 people.

DRC declares end of measles epidemic

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

“We can say that measles no longer exists [in the DRC].”

Measles is a highly contagious viral disease that mostly affects children with serious cases potentially causing blindness, brain swelling and respiratory infections. Effective vaccines are widely available and relatively cheap but low immunisation rates and lead to rapid outbreaks.

While the DRC was busy dealing with the second-largest Ebola outbreak in history, a measles epidemic was developing and the death toll would rapidly outpace the fatalities caused by Ebola.

The DRC announced the end of the measles epidemic on the same day the World Health Organization declared that the wild polio virus has been dedicated from the African continent. However, the end of a measles outbreak doesn’t mean the DRC’s public health concerns are over with the threat of coronavirus now hanging over the nation and the risk of another Ebola resurgence.

Featured image: “UNICEF Vaccinates Children against Measles in DRC” flickr photo by United Nations Photo https://flickr.com/photos/un_photo/3836516957 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

About Aaron Brooks

Aaron Brooks is a UK journalist who wants to cut out the international agendas in news. Spending his early years in both England and Northern Ireland he saw the difference between reality and media coverage at an early age. After graduating from the University of Chester with a BA in journalism, his travels revealed just how large the gap between news and the real world can be. As Editor-in-Chief at East Africa Monitor, it’s his job to provide a balanced view of what’s going on in the region for English-speaking audiences.