DPR Korea: Measles epidemic Information Bulletin No. 1
The Federation's mission is to improve the lives of vulnerable people by mobilizing the power of
humanity. It is the world's largest humanitarian organization and its millions of volunteers are
active in over 185 countries.
This Bulletin is being issued for information only, and reflects the situation and the information
available at this time. The Federation welcomes additional funding for the DPRK Health Programme for
Summary: Since November 2006, some 3,000 people in 30 counties throughout the Democratic Peoples
Republic of Korea (DPRK) have been diagnosed with cases of the measles. To date, there have been four
reported deaths when on 4 January 2007, two children and two adults died from the illness and its
complications like pneumonia. Local health facilities throughout the country are continuing to
provide treatment to 1,013 patients. Confirmation of the measles came from the country's ministry of
public health (MOPH) on 15 February, and information was shared at a joint meeting attended by
representatives from the International Federation, the DPRK Red Cross Society, the World Health
Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) on 16 February 2007, which is also a
public holiday in the DPRK. A mass vaccination campaign is currently underway.
Since November 2006, some 3,000 people in 30 counties throughout the Democratic Peoples Republic of
Korea (DPRK) have been diagnosed with cases of the measles. To date, there have been four reported
deaths when on 4 January 2007, two children and two adults died from the illness and its
complications like pneumonia. The measles is caused by a virus and is a highly contagious respiratory
infection. Patients with the measles often suffer from a total body-skin rash and flu-like symptoms,
which may lead to more serious health conditions. Local health facilities throughout the country are
continuing to provide treatment to 1,013 patients. Confirmation of the measles came from the
country's ministry of public health (MOPH) on 15 February, and information was shared at a joint
meeting attended by representatives from the International Federation, the DPRK Red Cross Society,
the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) on 16 February 2007,
which is also a public holiday in the DPRK. A mass vaccination campaign is currently underway.
Indications of the disease were first reported in Ryanggang province's Pujon ri, Kimhyongjik county
in November 2006. The disease was initially diagnosed as Rubella, based upon the clinical symptoms of
the patients who were first identified as having the disease on 6 November in Pujon ri and some
northern areas including Ryanggang province. As the disease could not be contained within these
areas, it has subsequently spread throughout the country. According to the MOPH, confirmation of the
measles could only be made on 15 February 2007.
Following indications of an epidemic, on 26 January the WHO supplied the MOPH with testing kits for
further investigations into the possibility of an epidemic. 77 out of the 84 samples confirmed the
immunoglobulin M (IgM) antibodies against the measles virus. The process of confirming the measles
cases faced constraints, as the disease was though to have been eradicated from the country in 1992
and there was an absence of recent cases. The national expanded programme on immunization (EPI)
programme manager further added that the country's health care workers are not familiar with this
disease due to its 15 year absence, complicated by the cases' atypical symptoms and different virus
Red Cross and Red Crescent action
The continued presence of the measles is accompanied by a risk of increasing cases and the further
spread of the illness to other parts of the country. The MOPH has put forward a request to the
International Federation, UNICEF, and the WHO for five million doses of the measles vaccine to
immunize people from 7- 45 years of age. Children below the age of seven are already vaccinated
against measles through routine immunization. Following recommendations from UNICEF, it was suggested
that immunization be aimed for all people up to the ages of 39 years (including all infants and
toddlers), which will increase the size of the target group to 12 – 13 million people.
The MOPH expressed its desire to start this campaign as soon as possible. It was agreed that UNICEF
will take the lead on the planning and costing of the proposed nationwide measles immunization
campaign and will inform all the stakeholders of the details. It was also agreed that Vitamin A drops
will be administered with the measles vaccines if resources are available, but priority will remain
with the measles immunization.
An initial rough estimate has placed the cost of five million doses with disposable syringes at USD
1.5 million. This estimated cost excludes the costs for transportation, distribution and training of
staff, which would be covered by the MOPH.
Following UNICEF's suggestion, the MOPH will mobilize their EPI stock of measles vaccines to begin
immunizing people in areas at high risk. UNICEF agreed to look into the availability of vaccines,
make cost calculations and draft a plan of action. The WHO and the Federation agreed to contact their
respective headquarters and back donors for consultation and support.
The Federation and the DPRK Red Cross have in place a system for the supply of drugs and medical
materials to 2,000 health institutions in more then 60 out of 160 (accessible) counties in DPRK as
part of the national society's annual activities. This compliments the national health system,
contributing towards fulfilling the basic health needs of the country's populace.
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delivering assistance to the most vulnerable.
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Increase local community, civil society and Red Cross Red Crescent capacity to address the most
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