The number of measles cases reported in the world has increased by 79% over the past year, compared to the same period last year. This is a worrying sign that there is an increased risk of spreading the highly contagious disease and other vaccine-preventable illnesses. There are concerns that this reported increase could signal the emergence of large-scale measles epidemics around the world. Here are the facts about the current situation.
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WE and the World Health Organization (WHO), describe the current situation for measles outbreaks in measles as a storm. Why?
There are many factors that contribute to the phenomenon known as a “perfect storm”. Pandemic-related disruptions as well as increasing inequalities and diverting resources from routine immunization all have a part to play. Today, too many children are not protected against measles or other vaccine-preventable diseases. The risk of large-scale outbreaks has risen as a consequence.
23 million children were not vaccinated in 2020. This is the highest number of children without vaccines since 2009, and it’s 3.7 million more than 2019.
This is because many communities have relaxed the social distancing policies that were in place during the peak of the pandemic. This allows the measles virus to spread more quickly among communities that are not protected.
The world’s children continue to be involved in conflict. Do they now face a greater chance of getting measles?
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Absolutely. Many millions of children are currently being forced to flee countries like Afghanistan, Somalia, Somalia, and Ukraine. These countries have experienced disruptions in vaccination and other essential services for children’s health. Many children live in extreme poverty. These factors increase the likelihood of an outbreak and the severity of the outbreak if it does occur.
These children are more likely to be exposed to unsafe conditions such as lack of clean water or sanitation. This increases the likelihood of spreading other diseases.
These outbreaks are being observed in particular places.
These outbreaks are caused by instability and conflict, as we have already mentioned. Afghanistan, Nigeria, Somalia, and Yemen are the countries with the highest measles epidemics over the past year. 21 measles outbreaks of severe and widespread nature have been reported since April 2022. The reality is that there are likely to be many more cases. Because the pandemic disrupted surveillance systems, which can lead to substantial underreporting of cases.
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How can measles affect a child’s development?
The measles can be fatal. The virus can have a deadly effect on the body. The virus causes severe fever and a distinct rash that begins on the face and spreads to the entire body. Some cases can lead to severe complications such as pneumonia, severe diarrhea and blindness. This can cause a decrease in immune system strength and increase vulnerability to other infections for children long after they have recovered from measles. This is called immunity amnesia.
What can be done to stop measles from spreading more?
The global coronavirus pandemic has disrupted vaccination campaigns, even for measles. It is imperative that we make a concerted effort to rebuild our health systems and ensure that all children have access to routine immunizations as part of the recovery process from the pandemic.
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Stronger health systems refer to a greater number of healthcare workers, more vaccination sites in underserved areas, better health records, and effective messaging about vaccines.
You can also play your part. WE celebrates World Immunization Week. We are celebrating all those who have, over many decades, played a crucial role in protecting children by creating, distributing, and administering vaccines. Find out more about the campaign and show your gratitude to these heroes.