Conakry — UNICEF and its partners have begun to organize a campaign to vaccinate over 1.6 million children to stop a measles outbreak in Guinea amid growing number of cases among children especially in the capital Conakry.
Since November last year, 37 cases have been confirmed in the capital-all children under 10 years old. Over the past few weeks, the number of cases of measles has been increasing sharply and led to the death of one child.
This recent spike has prompted the Ministry of Health and Public Hygiene of Guinea to officially declare an outbreak in the Conakry municipalities of Matam, Matoto, and Ratoma. The disease has also been reported in other parts of the country -namely the prefectures of Boké, Coyah, Dubreka, Kissidougou, and Mandiana.
"We are very concerned about this outbreak. Measles is highly contagious and extremely dangerous--especially for young, malnourished children. As we've already seen, it can be fatal. In a densely populated city like Conakry, disease spreads quickly," said UNICEF Representative in Guinea Dr. Mohamed Ayoya.
The Government of Guinea, UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO) and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) are joining forces to set up coordinated mechanisms to contain the outbreak. For the initial response, UNICEF will provide vaccines, refrigerators, needles, and other medical supplies and logistical support to the Government for the vaccination of children in the Kaloum and Dixinn neighbourhoods of Conakry as well as in the affected areas outside the capital. MSF and WHO will support vaccination efforts in the outbreak-declared areas of Conakry -namely Matam, Matoto, and Ratoma.
The vaccination phase of the national campaign will begin in the coming weeks as soon as vaccines, supplies and funding to ensure a continuous rollout are available.
Additionally, UNICEF and its partners will supply the Government with medicine to treat those who have already been infected by measles.
"There is no time to waste," said Felix Ackebo, UNICEF Deputy Representative. "We need to move faster than the disease. Because measles takes up to 12 days to reveal its symptoms, it is possible that the disease has spread further into the country. All children who are still not immunized are at risk. Therefore, an outbreak immunization campaign is required as soon as possible."
UNICEF and its partners are urgently seeking funding to replenish the stocks of vaccines needed to rollout the outbreak campaign across the country to vaccinate all children between nine months and 14 years. Additional medicines to treat those already infected are also required.
Note to the editors:
Measles is among the world's most contagious diseases, which can cause severe complications such as pneumonia, diarrhoea and encephalitis, among others, and death. It can easily spread through coughing, and sneezing. According to the WHO, Measles symptoms include: high fever, a runny nose, bloodshot eyes, tiny white spots on the inside of the mouth or if a rash develops, starting on the face and upper neck, and gradually spreading downwards. Parents are urged to seek immediate medical attention for their children if they notice the any of symptoms.