Measles outbreaks strike Samoa, other South Pacific nations
UNICEF said today that it is helping Samoa's government respond to a measles outbreak that has grown to more than 1,000 suspected cases, with 14 deaths in children younger than 5 years old and 1 in an adult.
In a statement, the group said the country on Nov 15 declared an emergency in the wake of a 4-week outbreak. UNICEF added that two other South Pacific island nations are also reporting measles activity. Tonga declared an outbreak on Oct 24, and Fiji did the same on Nov 7. So far, Tonga has reported 117 confirmed cases, none of them fatal, while Fiji has reported 4 confirmed cases. Officials in the two countries have temporarily closed schools to curb the spread of the disease.
In Samoa, UNICEF has sent health and communication staff to assist with the government's vaccination campaign and has delivered 110,500 doses of measles-containing vaccines and 30,000 vitamin A tablets. Also, six refrigerators and three emergency response trolleys are being shipped to the country.
In addition, the group has delivered vaccine to Tonga, Fiji, and Niue and has worked with other countries in the South Pacific to conduct measles vaccine campaigns and develop outbreak preparedness plans. UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) have prepared a communications toolkit and shared it with Samoa, Tonga, and Fiji.
UNICEF notes that measles vaccine coverage in Samoa for 2018 was 40% for the first dose and 28% for the second dose; however, Tonga had 99% coverage and Fiji had 81% first-dose coverage for the same year.
Nov 19 UNICEF press release
No new cases of Ebola reported today
Today the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) reported no new cases of Ebola a day after health officials confirmed four new infections, leaving the outbreak total at 3,296 illnesses, according to the WHO's online Ebola dashboard.
Health officials are still investigating 407 suspected cases. One more person died from their infection, bringing the fatality count to 2,196.
The DRC's Ebola technical committee (CMRE) said yesterday in its daily update that the four new cases reported yesterday included two in Mabalako and one each in Beni and Oicha. Oicha was also the site of a community death, which raises the risk of transmission because more people might have had contact with the ill person or body.
Yellow fever outbreak in Nigeria continues amid challenges
A yellow fever outbreak in Nigeria that began in 2017 saw a surge in cases in September, and though cases are starting to decline, the WHO said gaps in surveillance and vaccination are worrisome.
So far this year, 3,620 suspected cases have been reported in 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, according to a weekly outbreaks and health emergencies report from the WHO's African regional office. Further lab testing has confirmed 144 cases. In addition, 150 deaths have been reported, including 11 among confirmed case-patients.
For the first 3 weeks of September, 190 weekly cases were reported. In October, 839 suspected cases were reported, 72 confirmed as positive, with two new states affected: Plateau and Taraba. Since then, health officials have reported a stepwise decrease in cases, with fewer than 10 reported during the last week of October.
Nigeria's Center for Disease Control activated its emergency operations center on Nov 5, and three rapid response teams have been sent to help investigate cases and support activities in affected states. Health officials have enhanced surveillance activities and are working on finalizing a new testing algorithm. Doctors Without Borders is supporting case management in Ebonyi and Bauchi states, and mass yellow fever vaccination campaigns are under way in seven states.
The WHO said Nigeria's ongoing outbreak is concerning. "The low index of suspicion for yellow fever among healthcare providers and the poor documentation of yellow fever surveillance in many health facilities and across states remains a challenge," it said. The agency added that population immunity is below herd levels in affected areas, with national vaccine coverage estimated to be 65%.
Nov 18 WHO African regional office weekly report
Global leaders pledge $2.6 billion toward polio eradication
Today global leaders attending the Reaching the Last Mile Forum in Abu Dhabi pledged to vaccinate 450 million children against polio annually, spending $2.6 billion in an effort to eradicate the paralyzing virus, the WHO said in a new release.
The funds and vaccination goal are part of the first phase of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative's Polio Endgame Strategy 2019-2023, a 5-year plan to eliminate the disease. According to the WHO, the pledge comes 1 month after officials confirmed the world has eradicated two of the three wild poliovirus strains, leaving only wild poliovirus type 1 in circulation in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Major donors include the United States ($215.92 million), $160 million each from His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Pakistan, and $105 million from Germany. The money makes headway at the $3.27 billion needed to fund the Polio Endgame Strategy, the WHO said.
"From supporting one of the world's largest health workforces, to reaching every last child with vaccines, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative is not only moving us closer to a polio-free world, it’s also building essential health infrastructure to address a range of other health needs," said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, director-general of the WHO, in the release.
This year has seen a spike in polio transmission in Pakistan, largely because of barriers to reaching children, including insecurity, conflict, and parental refusal of the vaccine.
Nov 19 WHO press release
Ivory Coast confirms vaccine-derived poliovirus in wastewater
Ivory Coast has confirmed circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 (cVDPV2) in a wastewater sample collected as part of routine surveillance at the end of September, the WHO's African regional office reports in a new weekly update. This is the first report of a positive cVDPV2 environmental sample in that country.
Ivory Coast last reported a polio case in 2011. Lab testing on the environmental sample showed it was linked to a virus detected in Magaria district, Niger, in 2018, part of the Jigawa group, which has also been detected in Cameroon, Chad, Benin, Ghana, and Togo.
"Circulating vaccine-derived virus type 2 continues to be reported across the African region with Cote d'Ivoire being among the latest countries to report a positive environmental sample," the WHO regional office said.
Last year, coverage with the inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) across the country was 67%. According to the WHO, the country introduced IPV in 2015, but immunization coverage has been low, with limited stock of the vaccine reported in 2017 and 2018.
Nov 17 WHO African regional update