The sharp rise in measles cases is worrying the World Health Organization (WHO). These have almost tripled since January compared to the same period last year, announced Tuesday, August 13 the UN organization.
Figures published by WHO show that from 1 January to 31 July, 364,808 cases were recorded, compared to 129,239 last year at the same time. These are the "highest" figures ever since 2006, said a spokesman for the WHO, Christian Lindmeier, during a press briefing in Geneva.
The largest numbers of cases were recorded in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Madagascar and Ukraine. In Magadascar, "however, the number of cases has dropped significantly in recent months" as a result of national measles vaccination campaigns, WHO said. Other major outbreaks are underway in Angola, Cameroon, Chad, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, the Philippines, South Sudan, Sudan and Thailand.
The United States has had its largest number of cases in 25 years. Measles is one of the most contagious diseases in the world and deaths are most often due to complications. There is no curative treatment, but it can be prevented by two doses of a "safe and highly effective" vaccine, according to WHO.
Defiance of "antivax"
The largest epidemics occur in countries with low measles immunization coverage. In Western countries, "antivax" relies on a 1998 publication linking the measles and autism vaccine. The WHO has repeatedly dismissed these criticisms and it has been established that the author of the publication, the British Andrew Wakefield, falsified his results.
Mistrust may also have religious motives, as in New York where the disease was imported by unvaccinated travelers from Israel. In the European region, the figures have doubled with nearly 90,000 cases already reported this year, against 84,462 for the whole of 2018.
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In the other regions, WHO recorded an explosion of cases in Africa, almost tenfold, an increase of 230% in the Western Pacific and 50% in the Eastern Mediterranean. Southeast Asia and the Americas region as a whole each experienced a 15% decrease in cases.
The WHO estimates that anyone over 6 months of age should be protected from measles before traveling to an area where the disease is circulating. The UN specialized agency recommends that travelers be vaccinated at least 15 days before departure.