As if they didn’t have enough to deal with, what with the after-effects of economic collapse and hyperinflation – oh, and there was that cholera epidemic – Zimbabwe is facing an outbreak of measles that has already killed at least 10 people. ProMED reports that members of an “Apostolic sect” – one of many fundamentalist evangelical movements in this part of Africa – had a meeting, at which the disease was probably spread to the children.
The sect apparently does not believe in vaccination. In the words of a prior ProMED report,
“Most of the cases were among members of religious groups that shun conventional medical treatment as a matter of adherence to their faiths. Health officials in some of the measles-affected areas have been forced to enlist the assistance of the police to force members of an apostolic sect to immunise their children.”
The outbreak is part of a bigger, countrywide epidemic, which has apaprently killed more than 40 people since December 2009, with
“…fatalities …almost doubled from 22 on 29 Dec 2009 to at least 41 currently, and the number of suspected cases countrywide has increased from 340 to 1052 during the same period…”
Truly unbelievable to me how people continue to allow children to die because of religious or other unfounded beliefs – but this is nothing new. Witness the polio vaccination fiasco in Nigeria in recent years, which seriously dented the WHO’s campaign to eradicate the wild-type virus; in fact, witness the utterly witless campaign in the UK and other supposedly developed countries to “naturally vaccinate” children by exposure to wild-type viruses. However, love them or hate them, the US seems to have it right: in many states, children may not attend school if unvaccinated – and their parents may be fined or even jailed.
In South Africa, parents of children starting school have to show a vaccination certificate – which is as it should be.