Ethiopia: Thousands Affected By Measles Outbreak in Five Regions

A total of more than 12 thousand cases of measles were reported in 36 zones of 5 regions of Ethiopia in the past 13 months beginning January 2019, according to the UN. "Oromia region bore the brunt of the outbreaks, with 67 per cent of cases, followed by Somali with 21 per cent," the UN added.

"Most recently in December 2019 and January 2020, about 1400 cases were reported in East Wellega, East Hararge, West Hararge, Arsi, West Arsi, Shashemene town, West Shewa, Wolaita, Bale, Jima, Gamo, Siti, Kolaher, and Afder zones."

The continued measles outbreaks were most likely a result of low routine vaccination coverage: 69 per cent of the cases reported not having received a single dose of measles vaccine before the infection, while 12 per cent could not recall encountering such a service. Therefore, the UN said, "only 20 per cent of the cases were sure of receiving either one or two doses of measles vaccine." Of this, 53 per cent of the cases were children under the age of five, 25 per cent were aged between 5 and 14 years, and 21 per cent were between the age of 15 and 45 years, meaning there are multiple age cohorts without herd immunity.

Case management, intensified surveillance and routine immunization in affected woredas were some of the key interventions taken so far. Accordingly, over two million children aged between 6 months and 15 years received measles vaccine during reactive measles campaigns conducted by the Government with support from Health Cluster partners. "Without proper medical care, children with measles are prone to complications like pneumonia and malnutrition and can easily die."

A countrywide measles supplementary immunization campaign for children aged 6 months to 5 years is planned to be conducted within the first quarter of this year. Many countries including Ethiopia have included measles vaccine in their routine expanded program of immunization. UN/AS

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