Deadly measles and plague outbreaks in Madagascar

Australian Medical Association/AusMed

Almost one thousand children and young adults in Madagascar have died from measles since October last year, according to the World Health Organisation.

By the end of February, the official death toll was 922 and rising.

This is despite emergency vaccination programs having been implemented in the face of an outbreak.

WHO’s Dr Katrina Kretsinger said the current total cases of infection stood at 66,000.

She said an emergency response vaccinated 2.2 million of the 26 million population. Some of those young people had previously been vaccinated but had only received one shot, and so were given the more standard second booster jab.

Madagascar, an island nation in the Indian Ocean, is one of Africa’s poorest countries. In 2017, only 58 per cent of the population had been vaccinated against measles.

Adding to the current spread of the disease, however, is that there had not been a big measles outbreak in the country since 2003 and so few immunities had been developed in the population.

Madagascar health authorities now plan to make a two-dose vaccination against measles standard practice. A program will be introduced this year.

But the small nation is also infected with an outbreak of pneumonic plague, recording 124 deaths since August and a total of 1,231 infections.

Plague – both pneumonic and bubonic – is endemic to some parts of Madagascar, but the current outbreak has reached heavier populated areas and cities where normally it doesn’t.

This has sparked growing concern for the disease’s spread. The WHO has sent teams to Madagascar to help with disinfecting and cleaning populated areas in an effort to halt the spread any further.

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