Babies wail as a nurse tries to reassure mothers who have come to vaccinate their children. They fear a measles epidemic that has killed more than 1,200 people as Madagascar faces its largest measles outbreak in history and cases soar well beyond 115,000, but the AP reports that resistance to vaccinating children is not the driving force. Measles cases are rising in the United States and other parts of the world, in part the result of misinformation that makes some parents balk at a crucial vaccine. In Madagascar, many parents would like to protect their children but face immense challenges including the lack of resources. Just 58% of people on Madagascar's main island have been vaccinated against measles, a major factor in the outbreak's spread. With measles one of the most infectious diseases, immunization rates need to be 90% to 95% or higher to prevent outbreaks.
On a recent day the Larintsena health center's waiting room was full, with mothers sitting on the floor and others waiting outside in the overwhelming heat. Two volunteer nurses and a midwife tried to respond to the demand. Nifaliana Razaijafisoa had walked 9 miles with her 6-month-old baby. "He has a fever," she said. "I think it's measles." The nurse quickly confirmed it. "I'm so scared for him because in the village everyone says it kills babies," Razaijafisoa said. The measles outbreak has killed mostly children under age 15 since September, according to the WHO. "The epidemic unfortunately continues to expand in size" though at a slower pace than a month ago, said Dr. Dossou Vincent Sodjinou, a WHO epidemiologist. This epidemic is complicated by the fact that nearly 50% of children in Madagascar are malnourished. "Malnutrition is the bed of measles, " Sodjinou said.
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