[The UK Telegraph (20th February 2019)] – A measles outbreak has killed nearly 1,000 children in Madagascar, providing a chilling glimpse of how rapidly the disease can tear through a country when too few of its population are vaccinated against it.
The Indian Ocean island is facing an “unprecedented” epidemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned, after 66,000 people contracted since the disease the outbreak was officially declared in October 2018.
Health workers are deeply alarmed by how rapidly measles is spreading. In just five months it has taken hold in all but eight of the country’s 114 districts.
Even more worryingly, the number of new cases is surging. Two-thirds of the 992 deaths confirmed so far have been recorded in just the past six weeks.
The the scale of the epidemic, the first in Madagascar for 15 years, is largely down the fact so few Malagasy children are inoculated against the disease.
Western aid workers recount stories of how some families have taken their children hundreds of miles in search of vaccinations only to find health clinics unable to help.
The consequence of those shortages is now becoming clear.
“The scale of the measles outbreak in Madagascar is of grave concern, as is its geographical spread,” the WHO said in statement.
“After an apparent steady decline in cases towards the end of 2018, the current upsurge in cases is a direct result of the loss of herd immunity through declining routine immunization rates.”