Nigeria: MSF responds to a measles outbreak

ALT Olga OverbeekAn MSF measles vaccination campaign in Argungu, Nigeria, in April 2010.

Since the end of 2012, Katsina State in northern Nigeria has experienced a measles outbreak, which has just ended after lasting 28 weeks. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) supported the authorities by providing epidemiological surveillance and case management in Katsina’s 34 local government areas.

The outbreak began in December 2012 in the southern part of the state during the dry season, and gradually spread to all 34 provinces. The outbreak lasted 28 weeks, during which time 36,428 cases of measles were reported and 198 people died.

Since February 2013, MSF has provided support to the State Ministry of Health in epidemiological surveillance and case management of measles in all 34 local government areas. MSF regularly visited 300 health facilities, and donated treatments for 14,290 measles cases including for 420 complicated cases.

Unfortunately, due to the shortage of measles vaccines in Nigeria, initially only 10 per cent of the vaccines required to conduct a mass vaccination campaign were allocated to Katsina State. So MSF decided, in the first week of March, to further support the authorities by conducting a mass vaccination campaign in five of the 34 local government areas. Some 217,500 children aged from six months to five years were vaccinated. Due to this campaign, a decline in the number of cases was observed in these five areas.

Due to the inter-relationship between measles and malnutrition, MSF also conducted systematic screening for malnutrition. A total of 215,038 children aged between six months and five years were screened. The severe acute malnutrition (SAM) rate was found to be 1.8 per cent and the global acute malnutrition rate (GAM) was 6 per cent. Following MSF’s intervention in Katsina, Epicentre, MSF’s epidemiological research branch, conducted a vaccination coverage and malnutrition survey to provide a more thorough analysis of the situation, with results expected by the end of this month.