A new report by the United Nations has warned of a surge in cases of Measles globally, highlighting vaccine reinforcement as the only way to curb the spread of the disease.
The Coronavirus pandemic disrupted at least 57 vaccination campaigns in 43 countries worldwide, affecting 203 million people, most of them children. Two years down the line, the global health organization has announced a surge in cases of not just Measles but other vaccine-preventable diseases. The report also warned that the surge in cases might herald a much larger measles outbreak globally. Here’s what you need to know about the current situation.
Global Measles Statistics In 2022
Global cases of measles surged by 79% worldwide from 9,665 (Jan-Feb 2021) to 17,388 (Jan-Feb 2022), with Africa and the eastern Mediterranean having the highest rates.
According to the UN data, countries with ongoing conflict are known to have higher infection rates due to disruptions in immunization and other essential child health services. Displaced children are often exposed to unsanitary and overcrowded living conditions that increase the risk of an outbreak.
Countries under this category in the last year include Somalia, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Yemen. However, Afghanistan recorded by far the most measles cases from January 2021 to 13 March 2022, with 48 366 cases and 250 deaths. In 2022 alone, there have been over 18 000 cases and 142 deaths.
Somalia follows closely with a cumulative of 3509 suspected measles cases from 18 largely drought-affected regions in the country. Other countries with high rates include Yemen, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, and Nigeria with 254 and no recorded deaths, followed by Ethiopia.
Epidemiology of Measles
Measles is a highly contagious disease that is transmitted through direct contact with an infected person, or indirectly through breathing in contaminated air or touching infected surfaces. The virus infects the respiratory tract and then spreads throughout the body.
The first sign of measles is usually a high fever, which begins about 10 to 12 days after exposure to the virus and lasts four to seven days. A runny nose, a cough, red and watery eyes, and small white spots inside the cheeks can develop in the initial stage. After several days, a rash erupts, usually on the face and upper neck. Over about three days, the rash spreads, eventually reaching the hands and feet. The rash lasts for five to six days and then fades. On average, the rash occurs 14 days after exposure to the virus (within a range of 7 to 18 days). Death is usually caused by complications associated with the disease. Serious complications are more common in children under the age of five or adults over the age of 30.
Vaccination can uptake at least 95% of the virus to prevent the disease from spreading, though many countries fall far short of that goal.