Measles on the increase in Sierra Leone


…64 laboratory confirmed cases

April 25, 2016 By Ibrahim Tarawallie

Despite effort by government, through the Ministry of Health and Sanitation and its partners, to eliminate the spread of measles across the country, the disease continue to spread, with majority of the cases from the Western Area.

According Deputy Programme Manager of the ministry’s Extended Programme on Immunisation, Dr. Mariama Murray,  the current measles outbreak commenced in August 2015 in the Kono district and has continued to spread this year, affecting all the 12 districts.

She disclosed to newsmen at a presser yesterday that in 2016, a total of 977 suspected cases, with 64 laboratory confirmed cases and 815 confirmed by epidemiological linkage have been investigated, and that majority of the cases are from the Western Area, Bombali, Kenema, Bo, Koinadugu and Kambia districts respectively.

“Most of the measles cases are under 15years of age with the highest (68%) proportion under five. There is still active transmission of the disease with 32% of cases occurring between the ages of 5015 years,” she said.

She noted that because routine and campaign immunisation coverage have been suboptimal over the years, a large proportion of these age group remains unprotected, leading to ongoing cases and transmission of measles.

According to her, a close case analysis of the age distribution reveals a significant number of cases within 5-15 years spread across 80% of the districts reported.

She added that even though 99% and 89% coverage rate was recorded in 2010 and 2014, the coverage dropped to 82% in 2015 as a result of the Ebola outbreak.

In a bid to mitigate the increasing trend of transmission within all age groups, Dr. Murray disclosed that the ministry would be embarking on a national campaign, wherein children between the age brackets of 6-months to 15years will be given free measles vaccination.

“The free Measles vaccination for the Western Area will commence from the 25 April to 1 May, 2016, while the one for the 12 districts will run from May 9 to 15. We will be vaccinating children in their houses and schools. We are encouraging parents and guardians to make their children available for this free vaccination,” she appealed.

Also, Victor Sule from the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) said they have been able to procure a total of 2.8million doses of vaccines and 2.9million vaccination cards, which will be distributed each child after vaccination.