On Friday, June 2, government health officials reported that at least 15 children in the Kapoeta region of Eastern Equatoria state had died after receiving a contaminated measles vaccine. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nationals Children’s Fund (UNICEF) conducted an investigation into the incident. According to the investigation, the children died from sever sepsis caused by human error. The report found that an untrained team used a single syringe to administer the vaccine during a four-day campaign. They also said that the vaccines were kept in a building that lacked proper cold storage facilities. Another 32 children suffered symptoms of sepsis but eventually recovered.
The vaccination campaign targeted 300 children in the region from May 2 – 5. According to the UN, South Sudan is has an “extremely high” risk of measles outbreaks. In 2016, there were at least 2294 cases and 28 deaths due to the disease. This year, there have been at least 665 cases and one death.
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease that typically affects mostly children. It is transmitted via droplets from the nose, mouth, or throat of infected persons. The disease remains one of the leading causes of death among young children globally, despite the availability of a safe and effective vaccine. Symptoms of measles is usually a high fever, which begins approximately ten to 12 days after exposure to the virus and lasts four to seven days. A runny nose, a cough, red and watery eyes, and small white spots inside the cheeks can develop in the initial stage. After several days, a rash erupts, usually on the face and upper neck. Over about three days, the rash spreads, eventually reaching the hands and feet. The rash lasts for five to six days and then fades. On average, the rash occurs 14 days after exposure to the virus (within a range of seven to 18 days).
Individuals are advised to ensure their vaccinations are up to date to combat measles and, if experiencing any of the above symptoms, are encouraged to seek medical attention.