The epidemiology of measles in a partially vaccinated population in an African city: Implications for immunization programs

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



American Journal of Epidemiology








Measles; Vaccination; Vaccines; World Health Organization


A large outbreak of measles was reported in Pointe-Noire, Congo, between October 1984 and March 1985. An investigation was conducted to determine the epidemiology of measles in this community in which, in 1985, 54% of the children 12-23 months of age had documented evidence of vaccination against measles. The investigation included hospital and clinic record reviews and a community survey. Measles has been continuously transmitted in Pointe-Noire since at least 1979, with seasonal epidemics. In early 1984, the expected epidemic did not occur, and at least 1,000 measles hospital admissions and 100 measles deaths were prevented. Between October 1984 and March 1985, 1,942 measles cases were hospitalized, of which 306 (15.8%) died. During the epidemic, the proportion of nonpreventable cases (cases occurring before nine months of age) was 17%, reflecting the change in age distribution of measles cases in childhood since the immunization program started in Pointe-Noire in 1982. From the community survey, it was estimated that 13% of all children under age five years acquired measles in Pointe-Noire in 1985. Vaccine efficacy was calculated from community and hospital samples to be between 78% and 87%. Our findings suggest that increasing vaccination coverage levels to well above 50% is necessary to substantially reduce measles morbidity and mortality in African cities. © 1988 by The Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health.