The number of measles cases worldwide has tripled in the first seven months of the year compared to the same period last year, according to data from the World Health Organization (WHO).
While it can be prevented through a two-dose vaccine, the highly contagious disease has seen a surge in line with a decline in vaccination rates. A total of 364,808 measles cases have so far been reported globally in 2019, up from 129,239 cases last year. Only one in 10 cases are usually reported, so the figure could be even higher
“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.
Measles cases have soared around the world, with the African region seeing a 900% jump in cases year-on-year, while cases rose 230 percent in the western Pacific. The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Madagascar and Ukraine registered the highest number of cases.
Angola, Cameroon, Chad, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, the Philippines, Sudan, South Sudan, and Thailand have all seen major outbreaks of the disease. The United States has registered 1,164 cases so far this year, compared with 372 for all of 2018 and the highest number on record in a quarter-century.
Meanwhile, in Madagascar, which registered around 127,500 cases during the first half of this year alone, numbers have dropped considerably in recent months following an emergency national vaccination campaign, the WHO said.
Measles, an airborne infection, had actually been eliminated in many countries with advanced healthcare systems. But the so-called anti-vax movement – driven by fraudulent claims linking the MMR vaccine against measles, mumps, and rubella, to a risk of autism in children – has gained traction.
The WHO pointed out that the reasons for people not being vaccinated vary significantly between communities and countries, with a lack of access to quality healthcare or vaccination services hindering some from getting the jabs, while others are led astray by “misinformation about vaccines, or low awareness about the need to vaccinate”. In other words, antivaxxing is also taking its toll.
The measles vaccine is a “safe and highly effective vaccine”, the health agency said, urging “everyone to ensure their measles vaccinations are up to date”.