Global measles outbreak: Is this the new pandemic?

187 countries report measles cases

By DTE Staff
Published: Wednesday 04 December 2019
187 countries report measles cases
Photo: Getty Images Photo: Getty Images

A total of 187 countries have reported more than 4.4 lakh cases of measles till early November this year according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The South Pacific country of Samoa has announced a complete shutdown of government services for December 5-6, 2019, in the wake of a measles outbreak.

As many as 153 new cases of the disease have been registered in the last 24 hours in the island country.

Till December 2, 2019, as many as 3,881 cases of measles had been registered in Samoa, with 153 deaths reported there. The worst-affected age group, according to the government, are children between 1 and 4 years of age, of whom, 1,236 are affected.

The government has announced that it is undertaking a mass vaccination campaign, which is why services have been shut down.

Globally though, the African region is the worst sufferer. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has already registered 2, 50,270 cases this year. This accounts for more than half of the total measles cases registered this year, globally. 

As many as 5,110 deaths have been registered due to the disease in the DRC, a nation already batting an outbreak of Ebola since August 2018.

“All provinces are affected, and a national outbreak response vaccination campaign is ongoing in phases and should be completed by the end of the year,” the WHO has stated, adding the number of cases registered in the week ending November 17 were 8,000 more, as compared to the previous week.

Besides the DRC, outbreaks have also happened in Madagascar (1.27 lakh cases) and Nigeria (27,602). In 2018, Madagascar had reported 23,000 cases and Nigeria a little more than 7,000 cases. Chad has reported 25,596 cases.

Many European and Central Asian countries too are reporting outbreaks. “From January 1 to November 5, 2019, Ukraine reported 56,802 cases, followed by Kazakhstan with 10,126 cases, Georgia with 3,904 cases, the Russian Federation with 3,521 cases, Turkey with 2,666 cases, and Kyrgyzstan with 2,228 cases of measles,” the WHO says. Ukraine, Georgia and the Russian Federation had reported 576, 2203, 2290 cases last year.

Brazil has reported 11,997 cases this year. Yemen (5,847), Sudan (3,659), Somalia (2,795) and Pakistan (1,978) have also reported cases.

Bangladesh has reported 4,181 confirmed cases of measles. Last year, the count was a little over 2,200. The WHO update states that the current outbreak has been mostly reported in and around Rohingya refugee camps.

Myanmar has reported 5,286 cases this year, against 1,390 last year. The world health body stated that a nationwide vaccination campaign for children aged 9-65 months was ongoing.

Thailand has so far registered 4,852 cases. As of November 20, 2019, current outbreaks include New Zealand, with 2,084 confirmed cases, of which 80% are in the Auckland region. Last year, it had reported only 36 cases.

The WHO counts ‘suboptimal immunisation rate’ as one of the key reasons for the widespread outbreak of the disease. According to the global immunisation coverage report issued by the WHO last year, 14 per cent children in the world could not get even one dose of the measles vaccine. Moreover, 29 per cent children were out of the ambit of the second dose.

“Any community with less than 95 per cent population immunity is at risk of an outbreak. If an outbreak response is not timely and comprehensive, the virus will find its way into more pockets of vulnerable individuals and potentially spread within and beyond the affected countries,” the WHO has stated in the measles outbreak update.

It has urged all the member states to see to it that all districts have a vaccination coverage of more than 95 per cent.  The epidemiological surveillance for cases of fever with rashes has to be strengthened in all public and private facilities.

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