Confirmed cases of measles in Sudan this year already have quadrupled compared with the number for the entirety of last year, with the majority of those diagnosed with the disease being children under the age of 15. In light of the recent outbreak, Sudan on Monday launched the second part of a vaccination campaign against measles.
Anywhere between 500 and 600 cases of the infectious disease diagnosed yearly in the country is common, but the recent outbreak is the highest it has been in years, according to the United Nations. As of Monday, there were 2,511 cases of measles, and 38 people have died from the disease that is very rarely fatal because of vaccinations.
"The outbreak this year is huge,” Geert Cappelaere, the U.N. interim humanitarian coordinator for Sudan, told Agence France-Presse. "The second point of alarm for us is that the outbreak is countrywide. For the moment, 17 out of 18 states have confirmed cases of measles.”
Earlier this month, the Sudanese government partnered with Unicef and the World Health Organization to launch a vaccination campaign across the country. Vaccinations will be available to children under 15 and aims to administer the vaccine to 7.9 million children in that age group in 96 areas within 16 states, according to Unicef.
“Measles is a life-threatening disease but one that can easily be prevented with timely immunization,” Cappelaere said in a recent statement. “Every girl and boy must be reached no matter where they live. There are no excuses and no child can be left out.”
On Monday the second part of the campaign began, specifically targeting children in the western Darfur area. Roughly 2.5 million people live in what has become the most affected area in the country, many of whom have been displaced due to more than a decade of fighting in the country.
Measles is a highly infectious disease that spreads through airborne contact. The initial symptoms bear resemblance to that of a common cold with a sore throat and fever. Less than a week later, rash-like red bumps appear on the body.
The disease was thought to be eradicated from the U.S. in 2000 but has seen a resurgence in recent years. As of the end of last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 179 people across 19 states and the District of Columbia were diagnosed with measles in the United States.