UNICEF NZ warns a global rise in measles cases is a threat

4th March 2019

Following recent measles outbreak in North Canterbury, UNICEF NZ announced today that global cases of measles are surging to alarmingly high levels.

Ten countries account for more than 74 per cent of the total increase. In Brazil, Madagascar, the Philippines, Ukraine, and Yemen, there have been significant measles outbreaks.

Countries with ten highest increases in cases between 2017 & 2018
1. Ukraine: 30,338
2. Philippines: 13,192
3. Brazil: 10,262
4. Yemen: 6,641
5. Venezuela: 4,916
6. Serbia: 4,355
7. Madagascar: 4,307
8. Sudan: 3,496
9. Thailand: 2,758
10. France: 2,269

Globally, 98 countries reported more cases of measles in 2018 compared to 2017, eroding progress against this highly preventable, but potentially deadly disease.

“This is a wake up call. We have a safe, effective and inexpensive vaccine against a highly contagious disease – a vaccine that has saved almost a million lives every year over the last two decades,” says Henrietta H. Fore, UNICEF’s Executive Director. “These cases haven’t happened overnight. Just as the serious outbreaks we are seeing today took hold in 2018, lack of action today will have disastrous consequences for children tomorrow.”

Measles is highly contagious, more so than Ebola, tuberculosis or influenza. The virus can be contracted by someone up to two hours after an infected person has left a room. It spreads through air and infects the respiratory tract, potentially killing malnourished children or babies too young to be vaccinated. Once infected, there is no specific treatment for measles, so vaccination is a life-saving tool for children.

In response to these outbreaks, UNICEF and its partners are supporting governments to urgently reach millions of children in countries around the globe.

Notable reported measles cases in 2018 in countries with no reported cases in 2017
Brazil: 10,262
Moldova: 312
Montenegro: 203
Colombia: 188
Timor-Leste: 59
Peru: 38
Chile: 23
Uzbekistan: 17

Poor health infrastructure, civil strife, low community awareness, complacency and vaccine hesitancy in some cases have led to these outbreaks in both developed and developing countries. For example, in the United States, the number of measles cases increased six-fold between 2017 and 2018, reaching 791 cases. More recently, the U.S. has seen outbreaks in New York and Washington state.

“Almost all of these cases are preventable, and yet children are getting infected even in places where there is simply no excuse,” says Fore. “Measles may be the disease, but, all too often, the real infection is misinformation, mistrust and complacency. We must do more to accurately inform every parent, to help us safely vaccinate every child.”

To fight measles, UNICEF is issuing an urgent appeal to governments, health care providers, and parents to do more to contain the disease by:

• Understanding that vaccines are safe and effective and can save a child’s life 
• Vaccinating all children between the ages of six months to five years during outbreaks
• Training and equipping health workers so they can provide quality services
• Strengthening immunisation programmes to deliver all life-saving vaccines

Diseases move. People travel. New Zealand cannot afford to be complacent.

All articles sourced from scoop.co.nz.