Measles is caused by the measles virus and is highly contagious. Infection occurs by coming into contact with fluids released when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
Early symptoms include a runny nose, cough, eye infection, followed by diarrhoea, dehydration and pneumonia. If untreated, measles can kill and children infected often become chronically malnourished as well due to the energy they spend fighting the disease.
Vaccination is the best form of protection against measles and, even after the disease has begun to spread, it can still reduce the number of cases and deaths. The difficulty is that at least 95% of the people need to be immune to prevent new outbreaks.
MSF teams initiate immunisation campaigns when an outbreak is confirmed and usually target all children between 6 months and 15 years old. Children under five are particularly targeted because they are most likely to die from the disease. The key to the success of a vaccination campaign is convincing parents of the importance of vaccinating their children so awareness strategies are very important.
In 2007, MSF ran emergency measles programmes in several countries, including Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia and Indonesia.
- MSF is calling for refugees to receive humanitarian assistance in Chad following clashes in Darfur
- Measles continues to stalk the Democratic Republic of Congo
- DRC - measles epidemic in the north-east
- A Month in Focus: February 2013
- MSF responds to increase in measles cases in eastern Balochistan, Pakistan