Measles is an “imminent threat” globally, WHO and CDC warn

Measles is an “imminent threat” globally, WHO and CDC warn

Measles is an “imminent threat” globally, WHO and CDC warn


Measles, a preventable but highly contagious disease, may be on the verge of a comeback after a lull in the months immediately following the outbreak of the coronavirus, the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Wednesday.

Measles is called an “imminent threat in all regions of the world,” by two public health authorities he said in a report that nearly 40 million children missed their vaccine doses last year. They said 25 million children did not receive the first dose, while an additional 14.7 million children missed the second vaccine, a record number of missed vaccinations.

The number of measles infections has declined over the past two decades, although it remains a deadly threat, especially for unvaccinated young children in developing countries. However, there were an estimated 9 million cases and 128,000 deaths worldwide last year, compared with 7.5 million cases and 60,700 in 2020. That increase was due to poorer disease surveillance and vaccination campaigns that were delayed by the pandemic, the WHO and CDC said.

Vaccination can also bring benefits to one’s community, a concept known as herd immunity. About 95 percent of the population must be vaccinated with two doses to create herd immunity, but only about 81 percent of children worldwide received the first dose and 71 percent the second dose, the two bodies said.

So far, this flu season has been more severe than in the past 13 years

Measles, which starts with cold-like symptoms, undermines immune system, making the infected more susceptible to other diseases. In some cases, seizures and blindness are possible, according to the British National Health Service.

The WHO has previously warned that the drop in measles infections at the start of the pandemic is the “calm before the storm”.

“Routine immunization must be protected and strengthened” despite the coronavirus, Kate O’Brien, the WHO’s director of immunization, vaccines and biologicals, said last year. Otherwise, “we risk replacing one deadly disease with another.”

Hur Jian, an infectious disease expert at South Korea’s Yeungnam University Medical Center, said the recent recovery in global travel represents a likely return of measles even in wealthy countries with greater vaccine coverage. Younger generations who were less exposed to this disease may have weaker defenses, she added.

The United States declared measles eradication in 2000—defined as no transmission for a year and a well-functioning surveillance system—but occasional outbreaks still occur. More than 50 cases have been detected in the United States this year, according to the CDC.

Erin Blakemore contributed to this report.

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