Measles:Global Alarm Bells Over Spikes In Cases

The World Health Organisation says the number of people affected by the disease tripled in the first three months of 2019

Health authorities in Cameroon have reason to be concerned about a possible resurgence of measles cases. This is because worldwide, the number of people affected by the disease tripled in the first three months of this year, compared to the same period in 20108. The World Health Organisation, WHO on April 15, 2019 warned that the figures are provisional, with the actual picture likely to be grimmer.

The situation is so serious that all regions of the world are seeing outbreaks, with Africa witnessing the most dramatic rise of 700 per cent. The agency said actual numbers may be far greater, since only one in 10 cases globally are reported. Measles is a highly infectious viral illness that can sometimes lead to serious health complications, including infections of the lungs and brain.

Ukraine, Madagascar and India have been worst affected by the disease, with tens of thousands of reported cases per million people. Since September 2018, at least 800 people have died from measles in Madagascar alone. Outbreaks have also hit Brazil, Pakistan and Yemen, “causing many deaths - mostly among young children,” the study noted. Though measles is preventable with the right vaccines, global coverage of the first immunisation stage has stagnated at 85 per cent, short of the 95 per cent needed to prevent outbreaks, WHO underscored.

Writing for the Cable News Network, CNN, WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF head, Henrietta Fore, said the crisis was partly blamed on “the proliferation of confusing and contradictory information” on vaccines. They concluded that the profound benefits of immunisation were not in debate. “More than 20 million lives were saved through measles vaccination since 2000,” they disclosed. According to health experts, measles is one of the most contagious viruses, though it has not mutated to become more infectious or dangerous. Rather, the current global measles crisis is the result of poverty and misinformation. Fewer people are vaccinated in poor countries, with a larger portion of the population left vulnerable to the virus. This creates the environment for large outbreaks like in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, DRC, Kyrgyzstan and Madagascar.

Rich countries with seemingly high vaccination rates are seeing case spikes also. This is because some people choose not to vaccinate their children due to the spread of untrue anti-vaccination messages on social media. The take-home message is therefore that measles is far from being harmless as it kills about 100,000 people every year - mostly children.

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