Health alert on measles outbreak

| Updated on August 17, 2019 Published on August 17, 2019

Measles outbreaks continue to spread rapidly around the world, according to early reports provided to the World Health Organization (WHO), with millions of people globally at risk of the disease. In the first six months of 2019, reported measles cases are the highest they have been in any year since 2006, with outbreaks straining healthcare systems, and leading to serious illness, disability, and deaths in many parts of the world. There have been almost three times as many cases reported to date in 2019 as there were at this same time last year.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Madagascar and Ukraine have reported the highest numbers of cases this year. However, cases have dramatically decreased in Madagascar in the past several months as a result of nationwide emergency measles vaccine campaigns.

Major outbreaks are ongoing in Angola, Cameroon, Chad, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, the Philippines, South Sudan, Sudan and Thailand.

Low vaccination coverage

The largest outbreaks are in countries with low measles vaccination coverage, which has left large numbers of people vulnerable to the disease.

At the same time, protracted outbreaks are occurring even in countries with high national vaccination rates due to inequities in vaccine coverage, and gaps and disparities between communities, geographic areas, and among age-groups. When enough people who are not immune are exposed to measles, it can spread very quickly. The US has reported its highest measles case count in 25 years. In the WHO European region, there have been close to 90,000 cases reported for the first six months of this year: this exceeds those recorded for the whole of 2018 (84,462) — already the highest in this current decade.

The reasons for people not being vaccinated vary significantly between communities and countries, including lack of access to quality healthcare or vaccination services, conflict and displacement, misinformation about vaccines, or low awareness about the need to vaccinate.

Measles is almost entirely preventable with two doses of measles vaccine, a safe and highly effective vaccine. High rates of vaccination coverage — 95 per cent nationally and within communities — are needed to ensure that measles is prevented from spreading.

Source: WHO

Published on August 17, 2019
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