Measles now ‘an imminent global threat’ due to Covid-19 pandemic, warns WHO

Geneva: The World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have warned that measles immunization had dropped significantly since the coronavirus pandemic began, resulting in a record high of nearly 40 million children missing a vaccine dose last year. “There is now an imminent threat of measles spreading to different regions around the world as COVID-19 has led to a steady decline in vaccination coverage and weakened surveillance of the disease,” said WHO and CDC in a joint report.

“A record high of nearly 40 million children missed a measles vaccine dose in 2021,” read the joint report. The WHO has already recorded an increase in large disruptive outbreaks since early 2022, going from 19 to nearly 30 by September, WHO`s measles chief Patrick O`Connor said, adding he was particularly concerned about parts of sub-Saharan Africa, reported US Today.

Millions of children were now susceptible to measles, among the world`s most contagious diseases. In 2021, officials said there were about nine million measles infections and 128,000 deaths worldwide.

The WHO and CDC said continued drops in vaccination, weak disease surveillance and delayed response plans due to COVID-19, and ongoing outbreaks in more than 20 countries, mean that “measles is an imminent threat in every region of the world.’’

13 new measles cases, 1 death in Mumbai; toll rises to 12

Meanwhile, Mumbai has recorded 13 new cases of measles and one death related to the disease, taking the infection tally this year so far to 233 and the fatality toll to 12, according to the city civic body.

As many as 30 new measles patients were admitted to civic or state-run hospitals in the city on Wednesday while 22 patients were discharged, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) said in a release. Also, 156 suspected measles cases were found during the BMC’s surveys, the release said on Wednesday.

The viral disease is more common among children. The number of suspected measles cases detected so far this year also rose to 3,534 with 156 new suspected cases with synonyms like fever and rash coming to light, it said. Civic officials screened more than 3.04 lakh households in 24 hours.

Measles outbreaks had been reported in 22 locations in 11 of the 24 civic wards. But the 13 new confirmed cases were from seven different wards, including A ward in South Mumbai, the BMC said. “All cases of fever with rash are administered two doses of Vitamin-A,” the BMC release said, adding the second dose is given after 24 hours.

Can Measles be prevented through vaccination?

Measles is one of the most contagious human viruses and is almost entirely preventable through vaccination. However, it requires 95 per cent vaccination coverage to prevent community outbreaks.

More than 95 per cent of measles deaths occur in developing countries, mostly in Africa and Asia. There is no specific treatment for measles, but the two-dose vaccine against it is about 97 per cent effective in preventing severe illness and death. In July, the UN said 25 million children have missed out on routine immunizations against diseases, including diphtheria, largely because the coronavirus disrupted routine health services or triggered vaccine misinformation. 

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