World News

Measles virus continues to spread

More than half the world’s countries will be at high or very high risk of measles outbreaks by the end of the year unless urgent preventative measures are taken, the World Health Organisation warned on Tuesday.

Measles cases have been increasing across most regions mainly due to missed vaccinations during the COVID-19 years when health systems were overwhelmed and fell behind on routine vaccinations for preventable diseases.

“What we are worried about is this year, 2024, we’ve got these big gaps in our immunisation programmes and if we don’t fill them really quickly with the vaccine, measles will just jump into that gap,” the WHO’s Natasha Crowcroft, a Senior Technical Adviser on Measles and Rubella, told a Geneva press briefing.

“We can see, from data that’s produced with WHO data by the CDC (US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), that morethan half of all the countries in the world are going to be athigh or very high risk of outbreaks by the end of this year.”

She called for urgent action to protect children, sayingthere was a “lack of commitment” by governments given competingissues like economic crises and conflict. Measles is a highly contagious, airborne virus that mostlyaffects children under five years old. It can be prevented bytwo doses of vaccine and more than 50 million deaths have beenaverted since 2000, according to the WHO.

Cases last year were already up 79% to over 300,000,according to WHO data, – thought to represent just a fraction ofthe total.
Outbreaks have been reported in all WHO regions with theexception of the Americas although Crowcroft warned that thesewere to be expected.

Death rates are higher in poorer countries due to weakerhealth systems, Crowcroft said, adding that outbreaks and deathswere also a risk for middle and high income countries.

“We had many measles outbreaks around the world and middleincome countries really suffered. And we’re worried that 2024 isgoing to look like 2019,” she said.

Source: eNCA

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