Cases of measles have jumped by 50% in the world in 2018

Photo: Elaine Thompson Archives Associated Press
The WHO is concerned about the insufficient access to the vaccine in several countries, but also of the circulation of false information in the rich countries.

The world health Organization has warned on Thursday about an outbreak of measles in the world, with an increase of about 50 % of the cases reported last year compared to 2017.

“When we see the reported cases increase by 50 %, we know that we are headed in the wrong direction,” said Katherine O’brien, the director of the department of immunization and biologicals at WHO, in the course of a press conference.

“Our data show that there was a substantial increase [in the number] of cases of measles. We see it in all the regions. We are seeing outbreaks that may be prolonged, and that are growing “, she warned.

The figures available to the WHO are provisional, given that the countries have until April to announce the registered cases in 2018.

According to the WHO, in mid-January, nearly 229 000 cases of measles had been reported in the world in 2018, up from about 170,000 in 2017.

“All regions have seen an increase in cases last year “, pointed out Katrina Kretsinger, the medical director of the expanded Programme on immunization of the WHO, citing the epidemics in Ukraine, Madagascar, democratic Republic of the Congo, Chad and Sierra Leone. “In the Europe region, approximately 83 000 cases have been reported in 2018 to date, of which 53 000 in Ukraine,” she said.

To Madagascar, tens of thousands of people are affected by the epidemic. “From October 2018 to February 12, a total of 66 278 cases and 922 deaths have been reported “, according to the WHO. It comes to figures supplied by the authorities, and Mrs. Kretsinger, said that the number of dead was probably higher.

She explained that the plan of vaccination against measles in Madagascar consisted of a single dose of the vaccine, while the WHO recommends two, because the first does not always work. In the future, Madagascar intends to implement a two-dose vaccine, she said.

Measles is a serious disease and highly contagious, which can be avoided by using two doses of a vaccine ” safe and effective “, according to the WHO, who deplores the dissemination of false information about the vaccine, particularly in the rich countries.

Measles can cause complications, debilitating, or even fatal, including encephalitis, pneumonia and a permanent loss of vision. The risk of death and complications is particularly high in infants and in young children who are malnourished or whose immune system is weakened.

Last year, measles has caused the death of around 136, 000 people in the world, according to WHO.

The number of measles cases had decreased until 2016, explained Ms. Kretsinger.

“We are going backwards in relation to progress and we do backwards not because we don’t have the tools to prevent this, we have the tools to prevent measles. We recoil, because we don’t vaccinate ‘ children, has taken Ms. O’brien.

On a global scale, “the primary reason” for this failure in the vaccination of children is that “those who need it the most […] do not have access to the vaccine,” she said, pointing to the increase in the number of “fragile States, health emergencies, and refugees” in the world.

“Children who are not vaccinated are the poorest, those who live in the communities most marginalised, such as children of refugees, of migrants,” she said.

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