Measles cases up 300% worldwide in 2019, says WHO

The World Health Organization (WHO) has raised alarm over a 300 percent increase in the case of measles globally in the first quarter of 2019 compared with last year. So far this year, 170 countries have reported 112,163 measles cases to WHO. At this time in 2018, 163 countries had reported 28,124 cases.

  • The WHO said provisional data has indicated a a clear trend, with all regions of the world seeing outbreaks. 
  • As per WHO, Africa has witnessed the most dramatic rise – up 700% which has weaker vaccination coverage than other regions. 

About Measles

  • Measles is a highly contagious viral disease. It remains an important cause of death among young children globally, despite the availability of a safe and effective vaccine.
  • It is transmitted via droplets from the nose, mouth or throat of infected persons. Initial symptoms, which usually appear 10–12 days after infection, include high fever, a runny nose, bloodshot eyes, and tiny white spots on the inside of the mouth. Several days later, a rash develops, starting on the face and upper neck and gradually spreading downwards.
  • Under the Global Vaccine Action Plan, measles and rubella are targeted for elimination in five WHO Regions by 2020. WHO is the lead technical agency responsible for coordination of immunization and surveillance activities supporting all countries to achieve this goal.
  • Severe measles is more likely among poorly nourished young children, especially those with insufficient vitamin A, or whose immune systems have been weakened by HIV/AIDS or other diseases. The most serious complications include blindness, encephalitis (an infection that causes brain swelling), severe diarrhoea and related dehydration, and severe respiratory infections such as pneumonia.
  • While global measles deaths have decreased by 84 percent worldwide in recent years — from 550,100 deaths in 2000 to 89,780 in 2016 — measles is still common in many developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. An estimated 7 million people were affected by measles in 2016. The overwhelming majority (more than 95%) of measles deaths occur in countries with low per capita incomes and weak health infrastructures.

 Measles vaccine

  • The measles vaccine has been in use since the 1960s. It is safe, effective and inexpensive.
  • WHO recommends immunization for all susceptible children and adults for whom measles vaccination is not contraindicated.
  • Reaching all children with 2 doses of measles vaccine, either alone, or in a measles-rubella (MR), measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), or measles-mumps-rubella-varicella (MMRV) combination, should be the standard for all national immunization programmes.

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