UN agencies aid S. Africa's mass vaccinations against measles outbreak

UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 24 (Xinhua) -- The UN team in South Africa is supporting government mass vaccination efforts to quell a continuing measles outbreak, a UN spokesman said on Tuesday.

Resident Coordinator Nelson Muffuh is leading the UN effort following the measles outbreak in five of the country's nine provinces, said Stephane Dujarric, the chief spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. "Our team on the ground is working with authorities on mass vaccinations."

The World Health Organization has deployed technical experts for an active response to the outbreak, including case investigations, Dujarric said. Sensitization campaigns to prepare the public in non-affected provinces will launch in the next few weeks.

He said that a UN Children's Fund truck continues to travel in impacted provinces, helping increase vaccinations. UN agencies continue their communications drive on social media, public health centers, local communities, and traditional media to encourage vaccination against measles.

"Our colleagues tell us that the next couple of weeks will be particularly critical, with the reopening of schools, kicking off a new academic year," the spokesman said.

South Africa's National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) reported it had found 397 measles patients last week. "The number of cases continues to increase daily as blood and throat swabs are submitted to the NICD."

While the age range of laboratory-confirmed cases ranged from 2 months to 60 years old, the majority of cases, 40 percent, were in the 5-9-year age group, followed by 29 percent in the 1-4-year age group and 17 percent in the 10-14-year age group, the NICD said.

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