With 315 people dead, the Democratic Republic of Congo is currently experiencing the worst measles outbreak since the disease ravaged the country in 2010 and 2011, Reuters reported Wednesday. Roughly 20,000 people are infected with measles in the latest epidemic in the southeastern province of Katanga, according to a draft report made by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
To combat this outbreak with vaccines, the U.N. said it would need $2.4 million. The disease is highly contagious, with initial symptoms of high fever, diarrhea, dehydration and pneumonia, according to the WHO. Casualties and infections from the disease have escalated since the beginning of the year. From January through July, 267 deaths from measles were reported in the Katanga province, amid 16,500 reported cases, Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) said last week.
MSF began treating those infected in Katanga in March, but because the cases could be underreported, this latest epidemic may have infected more people than currently known. The Katanga region is prone to measles outbreaks. In the epidemic that began in 2010 -- but peaked in 2011 -- measles caused 77,241 cases in the Katanga province and 1,085 deaths, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. About 30,000 cases were also reported from 2006 to 2007, according to the National Institutes of Health.
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Access to much of the province is difficult. The roads in the region are often in poor condition, with some areas not accessible by car, according to MSF.
Though safe and cheap vaccines are available, measles is still one of the leading causes of death in small children, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). For developing countries, vaccines are only about $1 each, Reuters reported.