Measles outbreak kills 32 in the Republic of Congo

A measles outbreak in the Republic of Congo has reportedly killed 32 people and infected approximately 800 more.

Public health officials said that outbreak is centered in the southern Pointe Noire and Kouilou regions, according to

"These past five or six years we have had many weaknesses in our vaccination system notably in Pointe-Noire. The current epidemic reflects these weaknesses,” Hermann Boris Didi-Ngossaki, head of the World Health Organization’s Expanded Program on Vaccination, said, reports.

A measles outbreak in 2006-2007 was responsible for at least 3,000 cases in the Republic of Congo.

In the current outbreak, of the 800 reported cases, more than 600 people have required hospitalization. The first cases appeared in December, but an outbreak of polio at the same time appears to have caused the measles cases to be ignored.

"It should be noted that 15 percent of the children had not been vaccinated. It’s extremely serious,” Alexis Elira Dokekias, the Congolese director-general of health, said, reports. "There were, at first, very few cases of measles and then the disease spread.”

Dokekias attributed the spread of the outbreak to low vaccination coverage rates, the poor organization of health services and gaps in vaccine supplies during 2010.

An intensive month-long vaccination campaign targeting children between six and eight months is scheduled to begin immediately in the Pointe-Noire and Kouilou regions.