Zimbabwe measles outbreak death toll rises to 685 - health ministry


HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's measles outbreak has so far claimed 685 lives, the Ministry of Health said on Saturday, more than four times the cases reported almost a fortnight ago even as a nationwide vaccination program continues.

"Zimbabwe had 6,034 confirmed cases, including 4,266 and 685 deaths," the ministry said in a posting on Twitter, adding 191 new cases and 37 deaths were reported in a single day on Sept. 1.

Primarily children aged between six months and 15 years were succumbing to the disease, especially those from religious sects who do not believe in vaccination, the country's information minister Monica Mutsvangwa said last month.

According to government claims, apostolic sects do not believe in vaccination and rely on prayers. The apostolic church leaders have not reacted to government claims that their beliefs are responsible for a higher spread of measles.

The government is reaching out to faith leaders to garner support and awareness, Mutsvangwa said.

Calls to Bishop Andby Makururu of the Johanne Masowe Apostolic Church were not immediately answered on Saturday.

(Reporting by Nyasha Chingono; Writing by Promit Mukherjee; Editing by Mike Harrison)

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