Cameroon has begun a mass vaccination program to combat a measles epidemic. Medics said the outbreak is getting worse because parents are failing to have their children vaccinated against the preventable disease.

Dr. Marie Kobela, permanent secretary of Cameroon’s national vaccination program, said the measles outbreak was declared in Yaounde after seven health districts clinically diagnosed at least three consecutive cases of measles in the month of May.

She said the epidemic started because parents either refuse or forget to have their children vaccinated when they are nine months old as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). She said when a child is detected with the disease all children around who are not vaccinated are exposed because measles is a very contagious disease.

Kobela said surveillance teams have been deployed to areas of reported outbreaks. She said people should cooperate with them and report all suspected cases to the nearest hospitals.

She said people should immediately rush children to hospitals if they develop symptoms such as fever, persistent wet noses, red eyes and little wounds around their mouths because those are high indications they suffer from measles. Kobela said women should breastfeed their children regularly during such periods and make sure they have vitamin A supplements.

Ngambi Martin, leader of one of the vaccination teams in Yaounde said they have been deployed to encourage people to be vaccinated if they cannot show that they were vaccinated as children or have never had measles or are infants 6 to 11 months of age.

He leads seven vaccination teams in his area and said each team has a vaccination agent and someone who mobilizes people and explains the importance of vaccination so that they can totally adhere to the program.

The last time Cameroon reported measles outbreaks was from February 2010 to July 2011 when 37 out of the 179 health districts in the country were affected.

Measles is a disease caused by virus that is spread through the air by breathing, coughing, or sneezing.

The measles virus is highly contagious and can remain in the air, ready to infect, for up to 2 hours.

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