According to the UN, measles cases increased globally by 300 percent, in the first three months of 2019. This was in comparison to the same period in the previous year. A highly contagious disease, measles is airborne and is caused by a virus. It starts with fever, dry cough, runny nose and red eyes that later results in tiny red rashes and spreads to the whole body. The disease can also lead to serious health complications like lung and brain infection. Although, completely preventable by two-dose vaccines, vaccination rates for measles have been plummeting in the world.
Measles Cases Increased: Regions Affected
About 170 countries, recorded 112,163 measles cases in the first three months of 2019 ? as per a WHO report. WHO head (Director General,) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus even said that the world was in a measles crisis mostly due to anti-vax campaigns. All regions in the world are seeing outbreaks but Africa has seen a pronounced increase of up to 700 percent. Even USA and Thailand that have high levels of vaccination coverage have also seen a surge in the number of measles cases. The statistics may be much higher, as only one in 10 cases is actually reported globally.
The worst affected regions are India, Ukraine, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kyrgyzstan and Madagascar that have about tens of thousands of reported measles cases per million people. In Madagascar, about 800 people have died due to measles since September 2018. In the first two months of 2019, 34,300 measles cases were reported in 42 countries of the WHO European region. Young children were the most affected in countries like Yemen, Brazil, and Pakistan. As per the UN, despite measles being a preventable disease, global vaccination rates for the disease is at 85 percent as opposed to the 95 percent required to stop outbreaks.
Measles affects people of all ages, but more so children; about 100,000 children die every year because of the disease. Insufficiently vaccinated travellers returning from countries that are affected by measles are more likely to spread it among populations and cause economic and social harm. In the USA, the measles virus is spreading among orthodox Jews who are against vaccination. Other states with measles clusters include California, Michigan, and New Jersey. These are mostly regions with low vaccine coverage and are yet to make vaccination mandatory.
Why Has Measles Cases Increased?
It’s alarming that measles is now returning to countries with zero cases in the previous year. The main reason for the return of measles has been attributed to anti-vax campaigns by parents on social media. Other reasons could be conflict, civil strife, and poor health systems. The cause for outbreaks is mainly due to non-usage of vaccines by some people as even countries with high vaccination rates are witnessing a rise in the number of cases. In countries that are poorer, there is a huge gap in awareness regarding the benefits of vaccination. Many countries are now in the process of making immunisation mandatory as a response to the rise in measles cases. Immunisation is a clear solution to stopping measles outbreaks and can help save the lives of both children and adults. To prevent more cases, governments must take stringent measures like banning anti-vax campaigns and make immunisation compulsory among their citizens.