DAKAR (Reuters) - Congo’s government has declared an epidemic of measles, which the latest health ministry figures show has now killed at least 1,500 people, over a hundred more than have died of Ebola.
While health officials have focused on the far deadlier hemorrhagic Ebola virus concentrated in Democratic Republic of Congo’s lawless east, some 65,000 suspected cases of measles have been reported across the vast central African country.
The health ministry revealed the measles figure when it declared the epidemic on Monday.
Medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said on Tuesday that 1,500 deaths from measles had been recorded in the first five months of 2019, the highest since 2012, which was the deadliest measles epidemic of the last decade.
Ebola has so far killed 1,390 people in Congo’s North Kivu province, the latest Congo health ministry figures show.
MSF called for “a massive mobilisation of all relevant national and international organisations in order to vaccinate more children and treat patients affected by the disease.”
The health ministry said its vaccination campaign would target a further 1.4 million infants, and that 2.2 million had been vaccinated in April.
Health officials say comprehensive vaccination programmes are the only way to prevent measles spreading out of control, but say ill-informed opposition can sometimes scupper such plans.
The United Nations children’s fund (UNICEF) launched a campaign #VaccinesWork in April to counter a backlash against vaccination by some parents in different parts of the world.
Reporting by Tim Cocks; Editing by Edmund Blair