Global measles cases skyrocket

By | April 15, 2019

Measles cases rose 300 per cent worldwide through the first three months of 2019 compared to the same period last year, the UN said, as concern grows over the impact of anti-vaccination stigma.

Measles, which is highly contagious, can be entirely prevented through a two-dose vaccine, but the World Health Organisation (WHO) has in recent months sounded the alarm over slipping global vaccination rates.

“Preliminary global data shows that reported cases rose by 300 per cent in the first three months of 2019, compared to the same period in 2018. This follows consecutive increases over the past two years,” it said in a statement.

“While this data is provisional and not yet complete, it indicates a clear trend. Many countries are in the midst of sizeable measles outbreaks, with all regions of the world experiencing sustained rises in cases,” WHO further said.

The agency noted that only about one in 10 actual measles cases are reported, meaning the early trends for 2019 likely underestimate the severity of the outbreaks.

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So far this year, 170 countries have reported 112,163 measles cases to WHO. At this time last year, 163 countries had reported 28,124 cases.

“Spikes in case numbers have also occurred in countries with high overall vaccination coverage, including the United States,” WHO said.

“The disease has spread fast among clusters of unvaccinated people,” it added. New York’s mayor declared a public health emergency in parts of Brooklyn last week, after a measles outbreak emerged in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, where some had resisted vaccination on religious grounds.

WHO said that the most dramatic rise in cases — a 700-percent increase compared to last year — has been reported in Africa, which has weaker vaccination coverage than other regions.

It comes as US measles cases have surged again, and are on pace to set a record for most illnesses in 25 years.

Health officials on Monday said 555 measles cases have been confirmed so far this year, up from 465 as of a week ago.

While 20 states have reported cases, New York has been the epicentre. Nearly two-thirds of all cases have been in New York, and 85 per cent of the latest week’s cases came from the state. Most of the New York cases have been unvaccinated people in Orthodox Jewish communities.

The 2019 tally is already the most since 2014, when 667 were reported. The most before that was 963 cases in 1994.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all children get two doses of measles vaccine.

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