DRC Reports More Measles Fatalities Than Ebola

The Democratic Republic of Congo has confirmed 2,581 measles virus-related fatalities in 2019

African children

According to new World Health Organization (WHO) reports, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been confronted with at least 2 infectious disease outbreaks in 2019.

The DRC has confirmed 137,154 suspected measles cases, including 2,581 fatalities, as of July 21, 2019.

This data means the measles case-fatality rate in the DRC is 1.9 percent.

Measles is caused by a highly contagious virus, that spreads from person to person by breathing, coughing, or sneezing. The measles virus can lead to serious complications, such as pneumonia and even death.

One reason for this unfortunate measles outbreak is a suboptimal vaccination rate in the DRC.

According to the Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys, the estimated coverage for measles-containing vaccine 1 (MCV1) in the DRC was just 57 percent in 2018. This rate is well below the WHO’s target vaccination rate of 95 percent.

Furthermore, the DRC’s immunization program only offers 1-dose of measles-containing vaccine to children at the age of 9 months.

By offering only 1-dose, there is a known risk for measles immunity waning in a few years.

In response to this situation, and following the official declaration of a measles outbreak on June 10, 2019, by the Ministry of Health of DRC, over 2 million children have received a measles vaccination.

Additionally, the DRC is has been confronted with an ongoing and expanding Ebola Zaire virus disease outbreak since August 2018.

As of July 31, 2019, the DRC has confirmed a total of 2,713 Ebola cases, of which 1,823 patients died, indicating an overall case fatality ratio 67 percent.

In an attempt to control this Ebola outbreak, the DRC and WHO have been aggressively vaccinating suspected persons with Merck’s v920 (rVSV-ZEBOV) Ebola Zaire vaccine. As of August 1, 2019, over 160,000 persons have been vaccinated.

To warn Americans planning to visit the DRC, the CDC expanded the Level 2 Travel Alert regarding the Ebola Zaire outbreak.

This July 31, 2019, CDC Travel Alert says ‘travelers to this area could be infected with Ebola if they come into contact with an infected person’s blood or other body fluids. It is also spread by contact with contaminated objects or infected animals.’

‘And, family and friends caring for people with Ebola and healthcare workers who do not use correct infection control precautions, are at high-risk.’

‘Travelers should seek medical care immediately if they develop fever, headache, body aches, sore throat, diarrhea, weakness, vomiting, stomach pain, rash, or red eyes during or after travel.’

‘If you need help getting healthcare overseas, contact the nearest US embassy, says the CDC.’

Furthermore, the US State Department updated its Level 3 Travel Advisory on April 9, 2019, saying to Americans 'Do not travel to the eastern DRC.

For the latest information on the measles and Ebola outbreaks, see the WHO situation reports