A child is inoculated against measles in a clinic in Lumumbashi, Democtraic Republic of Congo. Photo courtesy UNICEF
Nov. 27 (UPI) -- A measles outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo this year has so far killed more people than has the Ebola virus, the United Nations Children's Fund said Wednesday.
UNICEF said in its report more than 5,000 people in the DRC have died of measles since the start of 2019 -- and more than 90 percent were children under the age of 5.
"While the Ebola outbreak, which has claimed more than 2,000 lives in the Eastern DRC, has commanded sustained international attention, measles, which has claimed more than twice as many lives, continues to be underreported," said Edouard Beigbeder, a UNICEF representative in the DRC.
The World Health Organization has called the measles the world's largest and fastest-moving epidemic. Although global measles deaths have decreased by 84 percent worldwide -- from 550,100 in 2000 to 89,780 in 2016 -- the highly contagious disease is still common in many developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia, and is a common cause of death in children.
Measles is transmitted via droplets from the nose, mouth or throat of an infected person. Initial symptoms, which usually appear 10 to 12 days after infection, include a high fever, runny nose, bloodshot eyes and tiny white spots on the inside of the mouth. A rash ultimately develops on the face and upper neck.
The measles vaccine is considered about 95 percent effective.
A separate measles outbreak in the U.S. territory of American Samoa has killed 32 people, mostly children. Nearly 2,500 have been sickened in the territory, which has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the world.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent experts to investigate the outbreak, and the Samoan Health Ministry said Wednesday 243 new measles cases have been documented.