About 16 million immunized against measles in N. Korea

Kyodo News
4/20/2007

About 16 million children and adults have been immunized against measles in North Korea in one of the fastest responses to a major outbreak of the disease, it was revealed Friday.

The mass vaccination was organized by the U.N. Children’s Fund, the World Health Organization, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and North Korea after the government asked for help in February.

According to the international organizations, the immunization campaign was done in two phases, with 6 million children aged 6 months to 15 years vaccinated last month and 10 million people aged 16 to 45 years immunized earlier this month.

The campaign was arranged following the appearance of several cases of measles in North Korea last November. By February this year two adults and two children had died and more than 3,600 had been infected.

Measles had not been reported in North Korea before this outbreak since 1992, according to a joint press release from the international organizations involved, and many health workers in the country were unfamiliar with the disease.

“This was a remarkable example of good cooperation between different organizations,” said Jaap Timmer, the International Federation’s head of delegation in North Korea.

“The Red Cross mobilized more than 15,000 of its volunteers to visit families and explain the importance and benefits of the vaccination campaign.”

Measles is spread by contact with fluid from an infected person’s nose or mouth and is highly contagious. Symptoms include fever and a rash.

Sending vaccines and syringes to North Korea cost about $6 million, the press release said.

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