The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Thursday said almost 1000 people in Madagascar died of measles since October last year.
The dead were children and young adults despite a deliberate emergency vaccination programme.
Dr. Katrina Kretsinger of the WHO’s expanded programme on immunisation told a press briefing that the mortality figures are based on official numbers.
But, they are likely to be incomplete, Dr. Kretsinger added. Same applies to the current total infections of 66,000.
Madagascar last experienced measles outbreaks in 2003 and 2004, with reported number of cases at 62 233 and 35 558, respectively.
The number of reported cases had sharply declined since then until the current outbreak. The estimated measles immunization coverage in Madagascar was 58% in 2017.
More than half of the cases (51%) reported during the current outbreak have not been vaccinated or have unknown immunization status, according to the WHO and UNICEF.
— UNICEF (@UNICEF) February 14, 2019
Madagascar has the highest proportion of malnutrition among children under five (47%) in the African region which can increase children’s risk of serious complications and death from measles infection.
The circulating genotype for the current measles outbreak in Madagascar is B3, usually found in Africa and Europe.
The measles outbreak has occurred at the time of resurgence of plague in the country—which reoccurs seasonally—straining the public health response.
Next #measles campaign in response to #Madagascar outbreak is planned from February 18th to 22nd. All children from 6 months to <10 y.o are targeted in 17 districts of 4 regions of the country. The 72 other districts for next phases before end of april.#VaccinesSaveLives pic.twitter.com/FxZ4huKAeB
— OMS Madagascar (@OMSMadagascar) February 9, 2019
Dr. Kretsinger said an emergency response has vaccinated 22 million of the 26 million population so far.
“We believe that that should go a long way towards stemming the current outbreak,” Dr. Kretsinger said.