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Measles cases tripled: WHO

Measles cases tripled: WHO

World Health Organization warns of a global measles outbreak, announcing that the number of measles cases worldwide has tripled compared to 2018.

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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.

Measles 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.

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 diarrhea and related dehydration, and severe respiratory infections such as pneumonia.

Routine measles vaccination for children, combined with mass immunization campaigns in countries with low routine coverage, are key public health strategies to reduce global measles deaths.

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.

The WHO European Region achieved 91% routine immunization coverage for the second dose of measles vaccination in 2018. This marks the second consecutive year in which the level of coverage has reached a record high in the Region, according to the WHO/UNICEF Estimates of National Immunization Coverage (WUENIC).

One of the drivers of increased vaccination may have been the resurgence of measles in the Region and globally over the past two years. From 1 January 2018 to 30 May 2019, 49 of the 53 countries in the Region together reported over 160,000 measles cases and over 100 measles-related deaths.

The dramatic increase in measles cases and measles-related deaths compared to previous years has been a wake-up call that the disease is serious, highly infectious and a persistent health risk for any susceptible child or adult, no matter where they live.

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