Con­cern as measles cases sharply rise


There is a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in measles cases and deaths, ac­cord­ing to new data from the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion (WHO).

The rise in measles cases in 2017 was threat­en­ing years of pub­lic health progress and point­ing to gaps in vac­ci­na­tion cov­er­age world­wide.

The data re­leased on Thurs­day was com­piled by WHO and the Cen­tre for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion.

Neg­a­tive mis­in­for­ma­tion, mis­trust in im­mu­ni­sa­tion and ex­perts mak­ing ac­cu­sa­tions against the vac­cine with­out any ev­i­dence have had an im­pact on par­ents' de­ci­sions to take their chil­dren for im­mu­ni­sa­tion.

The agency re­vealed that be­tween 2016 and 2017, re­ported measles cases in­creased by 31 per cent glob­ally.

This is dif­fer­ent from 2000 to 2016 when preva­lence dropped by 83 per cent, sav­ing about 21 mil­lion lives and re­sult­ing in an 80 per­cent de­cline in measles mor­tal­ity, the new data shows.

Some 173,000 cases were of­fi­cially re­ported world­wide in 2017, a jump of more than 30 per­cent from the pre­vi­ous year. The true num­ber of cases is es­ti­mated at 6.7 mil­lion last year, WHO said.

An es­ti­mated 110,000 peo­ple died last year, mainly chil­dren, from the pre­ventable dis­ease.

Ger­many, the Rus­sian Fed­er­a­tion and Venezuela had large measles out­breaks last year, lead­ing to the with­drawal of their cer­ti­fi­ca­tion for hav­ing in­ter­rupted trans­mis­sion, the WHO said.

“We are see­ing an uptick look­ing at the 2018 data and this uptick ap­pears to be sus­tained so we are wor­ried that what may be­gin as a spike is be­com­ing a trend,” said Dr Martin Friede, WHO'S di­rec­tor of im­mu­ni­sa­tion, vac­cines and bi­o­log­i­cals.

Global vac­cine cov­er­age for the first dose of measles vac­cine has stalled at 85 per­cent, while 95 per­cent is needed to pre­vent out­breaks, the re­port said. Sec­ond dose cov­er­age is 67 per­cent.

“The ma­jor­ity of the chil­dren who miss out (on vac­ci­na­tion) live in the poor­est and most dis­ad­van­taged com­mu­ni­ties around the world, many in con­flict ar­eas,” he said.

In Kenya, ba­bies are of­ten vac­ci­nated in two doses; one at nine months and the next at four years. How­ever, the pro­gramme faced prob­lems oc­ca­sioned by the al­most five-month nurses' strike last year.

This means the coun­try is star­ing at a cri­sis as thou­sands of chil­dren went with­out im­mu­ni­sa­tion. The na­tional cov­er­age has dropped from 85 to 68 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to data from the Health min­istry, although WHO rec­om­mends 95 per­cent cov­er­age in the first dose to pre­vent out­breaks.

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