Hearing Loss

Measles cases triple globally, Africa worst affected

Reported cases of measles worldwide have tripled in the last year, putting children under severe risk, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday.

In the first four months of this year, 112,163 measles cases were reported. In comparison last year, during the same period 28,124 cases were reported.

Sustained outbreaks have been reported from all regions of the world, with many countries confirming spiraling cases of measles. But poor regions remain worst affected, African countries witnessed the most dramatic rise of nearly 700 percent, the data released by the UN agency said. 

The European region is witnessing a 300 percent, the Eastern Mediterranean 100 percent, Americas 60 percent, and Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific 40 percent rise in measles cases.

“While this data is provisional and not yet complete, it indicates a clear trend,” WHO said. Officials pointed out, less than one in ten cases are reported globally, with variations by region.   

“The actual numbers of cases – captured in global estimates – will also be considerably higher than those reported,” the report said. 

Current outbreaks happened in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Madagascar, Myanmar, the Philippines, Sudan, Thailand, and Ukraine, causing many deaths – mostly among young children.

But the sudden rise in cases also occurred in countries with high vaccination coverage, including the U.S., Israel, Thailand, and Tunisia. In these countries, the disease has spread fast among clusters of unvaccinated people.

“Even in high-income countries, complications result in hospitalization in up to a quarter of cases, and can lead to lifelong disability, from brain damage and blindness to hearing loss,” it warned. 

In 2017, the most recent year for which estimates are available, it caused close to 110,000 deaths. Health experts blame the anti-vaccine movement, poverty, and weak policies for the sudden rise in measles cases. 

While social media platforms like Facebook assured action against anti-vaccine posts, governments are being urged to include the second dose of measles, mumps, and Rubella (MMR) during immunization drives.  

Coverage of the second vaccine dose needs to increase globally, to maximize a population’s protection against the disease. 

“Today, 25 countries still need to make the second dose part of their essential immunization program,” the WHO statement added.