Milestones :: Perspectives :: Research
More than 140,000 die from measles as cases surge worldwide
Infants and young children most at risk of fatal complications, health agencies warn
5 December 2019
Joint News Release
Worldwide more than 140,000 people died from measles in 2018, according to new estimates from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United States Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC). These deaths occurred as measles cases surged globally, amidst devastating outbreaks in all regions.
Most deaths were among children under 5 years of age. Babies and very young children are at greatest risk from measles infections, with potential complications including pneumonia and encephalitis (a swelling of the brain), as well as lifelong disability – permanent brain damage, blindness or hearing loss.
Recently published evidence shows that contracting the measles virus can have further long-term health impacts, with the virus damaging the immune system’s memory for months or even years following infection. This ‘immune amnesia’ leaves survivors vulnerable to other potentially deadly diseases, like influenza or severe diarrhoea, by harming the body’s immune defenses.
“The fact that any child dies from a vaccine-preventable disease like measles is frankly an outrage and a collective failure to protect the world’s most vulnerable children,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus, Director-General of the World Health Organization. “To save lives, we must ensure everyone can benefit from vaccines – which means investing in immunization and quality health care as a right for all.”
Measles is preventable through vaccination. However, vaccination rates globally have stagnated for almost a decade. WHO and UNICEF estimate that 86% of children globally received the first dose of measles vaccine through their country’s routine vaccination services in 2018, and fewer than 70% received the second recommended dose.
Worldwide, coverage with measles vaccine is not adequate to prevent outbreaks. WHO recommends that 95% vaccination coverage with two doses of measles vaccine is needed in each country and all communities to protect populations from the disease…
[in last week’s edition]
Measles – Global situation
Disease outbreak news = WHO
27 November 2019
Measles vaccination drive launched, North Kivu targets 2.2 million children
Kinshasa, 5 December 2019 – Around 2.2 million children are to be vaccinated against measles in North Kivu, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where efforts are underway to curb the world’s second-worst Ebola outbreak amid persistent insecurity.
The DRC is also currently experiencing the world’s largest and most severe measles epidemic, affecting all its 26 provinces. Since the start of 2019, more than 250 000 suspected cases and over 5000 deaths mostly among children under 5 years, have been recorded.
This drive closes the second phase of a preventive vaccination campaign and will be followed by a third and final phase planned in 10 remaining provinces: Bas Uélé, Equateur, Haut Katanga, Haut Lomami, Haut Uélé, Kasai Oriental, Lualaba, Maniema, Mongala and Tshuapa.
This mass follow-up campaign will ultimately reach 18.9 million children across the country by the end of the year, particularly targeting those who may have been missed by routine immunization.
“While the Ebola outbreak in the DRC has won the world’s attention and progress is being made in saving lives, we must not forget the other urgent health needs the country faces,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “This new vaccination campaign aims to protect children in North Kivu, as well as other parts of the country from a disease that is easily preventable with a vaccine.”…
Wall Street Journal
Review & Outlook
The Backward March of Civilization
A measles outbreak in Samoa kills 60 due to lack of vaccinations.
By The Editorial Board
Dec. 6, 2019
Our age likes to believe in the inevitability of human progress, but for an example of the opposite consider the Pacific island nation of Samoa. A measles outbreak there has already killed more than 60 people, and authorities declared a two-day curfew on Thursday and Friday.
Businesses were obliged to close and vehicles had to stay off the roads from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mike Cherney of The Journal reports that residents were told to fly red banners from their homes if anyone inside needed vaccinations in the country of roughly 200,000 people. Officials were going door-to-door to vaccinate people. Most of the dead were children under 4 years old, and more than 4,300 have been hit with the disease.
The outbreak is especially tragic because measles can be contained with vaccinations. But misinformation from vaccine opponents has spread around the world in recent years, including in supposedly civilized America.
An outbreak hit New York last year among Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods where parents often block vaccinations. New York State banned nonmedical exemptions for school vaccinations as a result. Some 1,200 measles cases have been recorded across the U.S. so far this year, the most since 1992.
Countries like Samoa are more vulnerable because they have less developed health systems and sometimes less efficient governments. Only 31% of Samoans were vaccinated against measles as of 2018.
The outbreak—and death toll—ought to chasten celebrities and others in the U.S. who have spread fears about vaccines, which are remarkably safe and prevent more deaths by far than they cause. It’s also a reminder that the march of civilization isn’t always for the better. Especially in the age of social media and lack of social trust, bad information can drive out good. Avoidable deaths like those in Samoa can be the tragic result.