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WHO Warns of High Measles Outbreak Risk Globally Unless Urgent Preventative Measures Taken

The World Health Organisation (WHO) issued a stark warning on Tuesday, cautioning that unless urgent preventive measures are taken, more than half of the world’s countries will face a high or very high risk of measles outbreaks by the end of the year.

The increase in measles cases globally is primarily attributed to missed vaccinations during the COVID-19 pandemic when overwhelmed health systems fell behind on routine vaccinations for preventable diseases.

Natasha Crowcroft, a senior technical adviser on Measles and Rubella at the WHO, expressed concern during a Geneva press briefing, stating, “What we are worried about is this year, 2024, we’ve got these big gaps in our immunization programs, and if we don’t fill them quickly with the vaccine, measles will just jump into that gap.”

Data produced with WHO data by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that more than half of all countries worldwide will be at high or very high risk of outbreaks by the end of the year.

Crowcroft emphasized the need for urgent action to protect children, citing a “lack of commitment” by governments, often distracted by competing issues such as economic crises and conflicts.

measles

Measles, a highly contagious airborne virus, primarily affects children under five. It can be prevented by two vaccine doses, with over 50 million deaths averted since 2000. However, cases increased by 79% last year, exceeding 300,000 according to WHO data.

The organization warned that outbreaks and deaths pose a risk not only to poorer countries with weaker health systems but also to middle and high-income countries, and there is a concern that 2024 may resemble the challenges faced in 2019.

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