Eastern Myanmar: Measles Outbreak

Myanmar's internally displaced families face the rapid spread of infectious disease, and health problems from a lack of food, health services and clean water.

It was a routine, sweltering mid-April day in a village for internally displaced people living just one kilometer from the Thailand-Myanmar border. Then a medic counted up five kids she had seen with coughs, pink eye and a red rash all over the body.

Were there more children with these symptoms in their village? Many, the medic was told, and she immediately suspected measles, a vaccine-preventable virus that is highly contagious and can spread quickly, especially where malnutrition is rife and healthcare services almost non-existent.

Those five children heralded the start of the largest documented outbreak of measles among internally displaced communities in eastern Myanmar, threatening a total population of 16,500.

CPI's local partners responded quickly, collecting blood samples to send to a Bangkok laboratory for confirmation, and mobilizing a team of medics to deliver measles vaccines for a catch-up immunization program, following World Health Organization guidelines.

By the time it was under control five months later, 512 people had fallen ill and four had died. The outbreak could have been far more severe if not for the well-executed response of our partners: Medics immunized over 7,700 children, curbing the further spread of the virus.

(Adapted from The Irrawaddy Magazine)