SOUTH SUDAN – South Sudan has declared an outbreak of measles following a constant rise in the number of confirmed cases over the last 38 epidemiological weeks.
John Rumunu, director general for Preventive Health Services in the Ministry of Health, said 31 deaths and 2,471 measles cases have been reported in 22 counties across the country.
“Based on the number of laboratory-confirmed measles cases across the country, the national ministry of health hereby declares a measles outbreak in South Sudan,” Rumunu said.
He said South Sudan has witnessed repeated outbreaks of measles since 2021 primarily due to the interrupted routine immunization services and inadequate implementation of supplementary immunization activities.
“The last national measles immunization campaign was conducted in 2020 with vaccination coverage of less than 85 percent which is below the 95 percent recommended target,” he said.
Rumunu said they will conduct an immediate epidemiological investigation to determine the extent of disease transmission, strengthen routine immunization services across the country, conduct measles immunization campaigns, and manage complications arising from the disease.
This comes a few month since the country launched a campaign to vaccinate children aged between 6 months to 14 years in Juba County. The campaign was implemented by the Ministry of Health with support from WHO and partners in Kator, Rajaf payams and two IDP sites in Juba.
Juba county has a history of recurring measles outbreaks with one outbreak confirmed in 2017 and a more recent one in 2019.
The current outbreak started with the initial cases being reported in mid-July 2022 which led to further investigation and confirmation of the outbreak in five payams in Juba County. Since the beginning of the outbreak, 79 measles cases with no deaths have been reported from the five affected payams.
Measles is one of the most contagious diseases of humans that is caused by the measles virus. Measles is preventable and can be eliminated by vaccination.
Countries are advised to strengthen their routine immunization programmes to reach all the vulnerable children to reduce the illness and death caused by measles.
The routine immunization coverage for measles vaccine in Juba was reported to be below 50% during the first half of 2022, which is below than the expected of 95 percent.
Further to the vaccination campaigns, WHO and partners supported the Ministry of Health to enhance measles surveillance and strengthen case management for measles through refresher training for frontline healthcare workers, surveillance officers, and the state and county rapid response teams.