Measles vaccinations in second stage of MSF action in Angola
MSF staff have performed at least 47,303 measles vaccinations in Angola since April 4 in the provinces of Bie, Cuando Cubango, Lunda Sul, Moxico and Zaire. MSF teams have been active in 11 of the country's 18 provinces providing emergency care to the ongoing malnutrition crisis there.
In the event of a nutritional crisis, and even where no cases of measles have yet occurred, measles vaccination campaigns are high on the list of MSF priorities.
Measles is one of the most serious health problems encountered in refugee and Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) situations and has been reported as the leading cause of mortality in children in several refugee emergencies. Outbreaks of measles are frequent and an important risk factor for measles transmission is overcrowding.
However the high mortality rate due to measles is preventable, and mass immunisation against measles is one of the top priorities in a situation such as is faced today in Angola.
There was an outbreak of measles in Cazombo, Moxico Province which involved just five cases. However as the outbreak took place in such a vulnerable population, it was considered to be a "red-alert".
- Measles is a highly contagious viral infection which is easy to prevent through simple vaccination. if there have been measles cases in the population, MSF generally vaccinates up to the age of the oldest case; if not, MSF vaccinates up to 5 or to 15 years of age.
- Measles can lead to death or severe health consequences. Complications that can occur are respiratory infections like pneumonia, conjunctivitis, diarrhea, skin lesions and vitamin A deficiency (which can lead to complete blindness). Children under one year of age have the highest case fatality rates reaching as high as 20% in epidemic situations.
- Malnutrition leads to a lower immune response making a person more prone to infectious diseases like measles; in turn measles patients are more likely to become malnourished as a consequence of their infection.
- In most of the African countries where MSF works there is a low measles coverage leading to large outbreaks.