A new WHO report indicates that after years of decline, the incidence of measles has increased again in recent years and has already returned to the level of the 1990s.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has released a joint statement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on the measles situation. At the end of 2019, this highly contagious and dangerous viral disease affected more than 870 thousand people worldwide and led to the death of over 207 thousand. A few years ago, these numbers were half, but now they have become record highs since the beginning of the millennium.
Measles is caused by airborne viruses. They affect the upper respiratory tract, spreading throughout the body, and suppress the immune system. The disease is accompanied by a high fever and a characteristic skin rash. There are no specific drugs for treating measles, and in the absence of good medical care, it can kill one in ten people who get it, although mortality is usually lower.
Measles is especially difficult for children, and for a long time, measles was one of the main factors in infant mortality. The situation was reversed in the 1960s when the vaccine was created and mass vaccination began. In 2016, the incidence of measles in the world reached a minimum, most countries have already proclaimed victory over the disease, and doctors expected its complete eradication throughout the world – as it happened with smallpox earlier. However, judging by the new data from the WHO, further, the situation began to develop in the opposite direction.
In 2019, there were 50 per cent more patients in the world than in 2016, and about the same as in 1996: 869.7 thousand. At the same time, doctors are sure that most cases have remained unreported and estimate the real number of cases closer to nine million people. The number of deaths also increased, reaching 207.5 thousand – against 140 thousand a year earlier. Most of the victims are children under the age of five.
Doctors note that the spread of the “anti-vaccination” movement plays a special negative role in the return of the disease. Doctors fear that measles incidence will increase even more due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It has already led to the halt of planned vaccination campaigns in 26 countries, most of which have not yet launched it. This can provoke the emergence of local foci of the disease, from which it can easily spread, as soon as international communications work as usual.