MSF responds to measles epidemic in Chad

Early April, MSF led an exploratory mission in Bousso district, 300 kms south of N'Djamena, revealing several sources of infection and a very low coverage of vaccination in a dispersed and nomadic population. In response to the emergency, the medical teams are providing medical support and drugs for 2,300 cases.
N'Djamena/Luxembourg - A measles epidemic has struck Chad, affecting the capital N'Djamena and at least three provinces in the south and east of the country. MSF has started to provide emergency assistance to; treat cases; assess the situation; and carry out vaccination campaigns. To date, the official death toll stands at 115, with over 6,000 reported cases nationwide - of these, over 3,400 are in N'Djamena. From January until April 2005, the capital city reported as many cases as for all of 2004. Moreover, the total number of individuals now infected is likely to be two or three times higher than the reported figure. In the paediatric ward of some hospitals, 50% of the death toll is due to measles in April. To tackle this emergency, MSF teams have started to treat patients in five health centres located in the most populated area of N'Djamena, and are attending the most severe cases in two hospitals in the city. The Chadian authorities have announced that treatment is free from now on, and made drugs available in the health centres. A specialist in epidemiology has been sent to assess the situation. "We have to collect epidemiological data to define if the epidemic has already reached its peak or not," explained Kate Alberty, epidemiologist for Epicentre. "This will help us to identify the areas at risk and the most affected age bracket. Accordingly, we'll be able to determine the locations where it would be necessary to start the vaccination campaigns." In early April, MSF led an exploratory mission in Bousso district, 300 kms south of N'Djamena, revealing several sources of infection and a very low coverage of vaccination in a dispersed and nomadic population. In response to the emergency, the medical teams are providing medical support and drugs for 2,300 cases. On Thursday, April 21, MSF launched, in collaboration with local medical authorities and the Ministry of Health, the first vaccination campaign aimed to immunize an estimated 40,000 children under five. "The immunization campaign is almost complete," said Wim Fransen, MSF head of mission in Chad. "This achievement will reduce the mortality rate, protect the population and cut the spread of the epidemic." Measles, a highly contagious viral infection, opens the door to other infections such as those of the respiratory system, and can lead to severe complications and death. Anyone who has not been immunized is at risk, and children are the most vulnerable. There is no specific treatment for measles, but antibiotics are frequently used against concomitant infections. Measles can be prevented by immunization (a simple dose of vaccine), and is commonly included in basic vaccination schedule for children. However the coverage in Chad has been low in recent years. Currently, MSF has mobilized a team of 11 specialists to fight the epidemic. Other MSF activities in Chad include medical and nutritional assistance for Sudanese refugees near the Sudanese border, a malaria and a surgical project in the Bongor district.