This is according to a joint press release from the Ministry of Health and Sanitation and WHO; adding that a measles outbreak is defined as three or more laboratory confirmed cases in a community or district in one month.
“We are doing everything in our power to bring this outbreak under control, with teams already on the ground leading the response,” said CMO Dr. BrimaKargbo.
In the release, he added: “Given the location of the affected communities, we are working with our counterparts in Guinea to ensure continued collaboration on measles vaccination efforts, community engagement and surveillance.”
Additionally, CMO Dr. Kargbo maintained that measles is a serious but vaccine-preventable disease that is caused by a virus. According to him, when children are unvaccinated, the virus can spread quickly and cause severe illness, disability and deaths but a safe, free and effective vaccine is now available to protect children against measles virus, with two doses given as part of the routine vaccination schedule in Sierra Leone (the first dose at 9 months and the second at 15 months).
Dr. Kargbo further said: “While we are planning an emergency vaccination campaign within Koinadugu, we want to encourage all caregivers everywhere in the country to ensure that children aged under-2 years have received their two doses of the measles marklate, which provides lasting protection against the disease,” said Dr. Kargbo, adding, that vaccination is the only reliable way to ensure children are protected against this life-threatening illness, which can be devastating in its effects.
According to another senior MoHS official, with support from WHO, MSF, UNICEF, UK Aid and other partners, the MoHS response to the recent cases included a targeted vaccination campaign for children in the affected and most at-risk areas in Koinadugu district, cross-border collaboration and community engagement, contact-tracing and enhanced surveillance for suspected measles cases. Parents and caregivers are also being reminded to ensure their children’s routine vaccines are up to date.
“But I should also state that across the country, vaccination uptake recovered immensely following the Ebola outbreak,” said CMO Dr. Kargbo. He added however that there are still areas where vaccination coverage is sub-optimal, especially in communities that are very remote and where populations are mobile and travelling across borders. “This will require concerted efforts not only from our health workers but also from our caregivers, the communities, local authorities and health partners to ensure that each child everywhere is reached with their necessary vaccines,” CMO Dr. Kargbo stated.
The Koinadugu vaccine campaign has already started in earnest.