According to a recent update by the World Health Organization (WHO), preliminary global data on measles shows that reported cases tripled in the first quarter of 2019 compared to the same time last year. In the numbers, Africa represents the highest cases among other regions with a near 700 percent increase in reported cases.
WHO says this follows consecutive increases over the past two years. In the first three months of 2019 alone, a colossal 112,000 measles cases were reported. Whereas, during the same period in 2018 only about 28,000 cases were reported. Citing the vast 300 percent increase, the agency said the figures were provisional given that only one in ten cases in the world are actually reported. This means that by the time the survey is completed, the numbers could be higher than those reported.
“To date, 2019 has seen over 112,000 measles cases reported from 170 countries, compared to over 28,000 cases from 163 countries this same time last year. This is a 300 percent increase in cases worldwide and by region.”
With Africa in number one spot at 700 percent increase, Europe has seen 300 percent rise, the Eastern Mediterranean 100 percent, Americas 60 percent, Southern Asia and the Western Pacific 40 percent increase in measles cases respectively.
The reported figures of sustained measles outbreaks call for major concern but, more alarming is that developed countries with high vaccine coverage are equally affected.“Even in high-income countries, measles complications result in hospitalization in up to 1 in 4 cases, and can lead to lifelong disability, from brain damage and blindness to hearing loss.”
For poor regions like Africa, these increased outbreaks can be attributed to limited access to vaccines and inefficiency in immunization programmes that have little or zero supervision. In addition, misinformation could be a major contributing factor to low compliance with measles vaccination and other related autoimmune diseases.
On the other hand, the case for developed communities could be argued on vaccine failure among other things. In 2011, there were reports of measles outbreak among people with evidence of prior immunity in the United States. However, WHO reports that the recent outbreaks in rich countries including the US are recorded among clusters of unvaccinated people. It states that for several years, global measles coverage with the first dose of the vaccine has stalled at 85 percent. This is high but still short of the 95 percent needed to prevent outbreaks. Second dose coverage, while increasing, stands at 67 percent. The agency calls for more compliance to ensure a better effect.
In 1998, Dr Andrew Wakefield published a study suggesting that the measles, mumps and rubella MMR vaccine could trigger autism. Although his theory has since been discarded as false, the damage caused by the false alarm (vaccine scare) still remains a problem. Till date, there is mistrust for vaccines globally, in both underdeveloped and advanced communities. Measles is preventable through two doses of a safe and effective vaccines, WHO says.