Nearly 8.70 lakh measles cases reported last year, highest in 23 years: Report

Nearly 8.70 lakh measles cases reported last year

New Delhi (NVI): Around 8,70,000 people were infected from measles last year, resulting in the highest number of cases of highly contagious disease in 23 years as vaccinations decreased, according to WHO and CDC report.

In the report, the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that, there were 8,69,770 cases of measles in 2019 the highest number since 1996. The number of deaths about 2,07,500 increased by almost 50 per cent since 2016.

WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “We know how to prevent measles outbreaks and deaths.”

“These data send a clear message that we are failing to protect children from measles in every region of the world. We must collectively work to support countries and engage communities to reach everyone, everywhere with measles vaccine and stop this deadly virus,” Tedros added.

Measles mostly strikes children under five and can be fatal in those who are malnourished or have compromised immune systems.

The report said that, measles outbreaks occur when people who are not protected from the virus are infected and spread the disease to unvaccinated populations.

However, to control measles and prevent outbreaks and deaths, WHO said, vaccination coverage rates with the required MCV1 and MCV2 (measles containing vaccines) must reach 95 percent and should be maintained at national and subnational levels.

“MCV1 coverage has been stagnant globally for more than a decade at between 84 and 85 per cent, while MCV2 coverage has been steadily increasing but is still only at 71 percent,” it added.

The agencies further said that, necessary efforts to control COVID-19 have resulted in disruptions in vaccination and crippled efforts to prevent and minimize measles outbreaks. Although reported cases of measles were lower this year.

WHO and CDC added that, as of November, more than 94 million people in 26 countries were at risk of missing vaccines due to paused measles campaigns and many of these countries are experiencing ongoing outbreaks

Of countries with postponed planned 2020 immunization campaigns, only eight Brazil, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Nepal, Nigeria, Philippines and Somalia have resumed their campaigns after initial delays.

“Before there was a coronavirus crisis, the world was grappling with a measles crisis, and it has not gone away,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director.

“While health systems are strained by the COVID-19 pandemic, we must not allow our fight against one deadly disease to come at the expense of our fight against another. This means ensuring we have the resources to continue immunization campaigns for all vaccine-preventable diseases, even as we address the growing COVID-19 pandemic,” Fore.

Furthermore, WHO and UNICEF issued an emergency call for action on measles and polio outbreak prevention and response on November 6.

The Measles & Rubella Initiative (M&RI), which includes the UN Foundation ICEF, WHO, international and national health agencies as well as global health organisations, has also been established to help put the world back on track towards measles elimination and respond to immunisation delays for measles and all vaccines in every region of the world.

-RJV