Measles cases triple in a year: WHO

More than 180 countries reported 364,808 measles cases between January 1 and July 31 2019. In the same period last year, 129,239 cases were reported from 181 countries

By DTE Staff
Published: Tuesday 13 August 2019

The number of measles cases reported have almost tripled in the first seven months this year, World Health organization said on August 12. 

With 364,808 measles cases in 182 countries, the outbreaks are the most since 2006, according to WHO's preliminary reports. In the same period last year, 129,239 cases were reported in 181 countries.

The most number of cases were reported from Ukraine and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Countries such as Angola, Cameroon, Chad, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Philippines, South Sudan, Sudan and Thailand also reported major outbreaks. The United States has reported its highest measles case count in 25 years. 

Among continents, Africa recorded a whopping 10-fold increase in measles cases in the period. Europe has reported about 90,000 measles cases in the first six-months of 2019 — a 120 per cent increase compared to the same period last year. In 2018, it recorded 84,462 cases, which were already the highest in the decade.

There has also been a 1.5-fold increase in the number of cases from the Eastern Mediterranean Region, while the Western Pacific Region reproted a three-fold increase compared to 2018.

“There have been almost three times as many cases reported to date in 2019 as there were at this same time last year. This follows successive yearly increases since 2016, indicating a concerning and continuing upsurge in the overall measles burden worldwide,” the WHO said, in a statement.

These outbreaks are straining health care systems, leading to serious illness, disability and even deaths in many parts of the world, it added.

However, the South-East Asia Region and the Region of the Americas each saw a 15 per cent decrease in reported cases. Madagascar has also seen a significant decrease in cases, due to the nationwide emergency measles vaccine campaigns 

Low and disproportionate vaccination coverage, gaps and disparities between communities, geographic areas and among age groups have led to both large and protracted outbreaks worldwide.  

A lack of access to quality healthcare or vaccination services, conflict and displacement, misinformation about vaccines, or low awareness about the need to vaccinate, are the reasons why people are not being vaccinated, the WHO said.

Around 20 million children in 2018 received no measles vaccine through their routine vaccination programmes, according to WHO and UNICEF coverage data released in July 2019.  Furthermore, 23 countries are yet to introduce the second measles vaccine dose into their national schedule.

As a result, measles is spreading among older children, youth and adults who have missed out on vaccination in the past.

Measles is a highly contagious viral disease, but is almost entirely preventable with two doses of safe and highly effective vaccine. Under the Global Vaccine Action Plan, measles and rubella are targeted for elimination in five WHO Regions by 2020.  To curtail spread of measles 95 per cent of vaccination coverage both nationally and within communities is needed.

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