Background: Measles continues to circulate in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the country suffered from several important outbreaks over the last 5 years. Despite a large outbreak starting in the former province of Katanga in 2010 and the resulting immunization activities, another outbreak occurred in 2015 in this same region. We conducted measles seroprevalence surveys in four health zones (HZ) in the former Katanga Province in order to assess the immunity against measles in children 6 months to 14 years after the 2015 outbreak.
Methods: We conducted multi-stage cluster surveys stratified by age group in four HZs, Kayamba, Malemba-Nkulu, Fungurume, and Manono. The age groups were 6-11 months, 12-59 months, and 5-14 years in Kayamba and Malemba-Nkulu, 6-59 months and 5-14 years in Manono and Fungurume. The serological status was measured on dried capillary blood spots collected systematically along with vaccination status (including routine Extended Program of Immunization (EPI), and supplementary immunization activities (SIAs)) and previous self-reported history of suspected measles.
Results: Overall seroprevalence against measles was 82.7% in Kayamba, 97.6% in Malemba-Nkulu, 83.2% in Manono, and 74.4% in Fungurume, and it increased with age in all HZs. It was 70.7 and 93.8% in children 12-59 months in Kayamba and Malemba-Nkulu, and 49.8 and 64.7% in children 6-59 months in Fungurume and Manono. The EPI coverage was low but varied across HZ. The accumulation of any type of vaccination against measles resulted in an overall vaccine coverage (VC) of at least 85% in children 12-59 months in Kayamba and Malemba-Nkulu, 86.1 and 74.8% in children 6-59 months in Fungurume and Manono. Previous measles infection in 2015-early 2016 was more frequently reported in children aged 12-59 months or 6-59 months (depending on the HZ).
Conclusion: The measured seroprevalence was consistent with the events that occurred in these HZs over the past few years. Measles seroprevalence might prove a valuable source of information to help adjust the timing of future SIAs and prioritizing support to the EPI in this region as long as the VC does not reach a level high enough to efficiently prevent epidemic flare-ups.
Keywords: Democratic Republic of Congo; Immunity; Measles; Seroprevalence; Vaccination.