Measles cases jump nearly 80% worldwide, WHO says

Published on : 27/04/2022 – 19:24

The effects of the Covid-19 crisis are beginning to be felt on other diseases. Measles cases have been on the rise worldwide since the start of 2022, warn UNICEF and WHO. This highly contagious viral disease could affect “millions of children” if the delays in vaccination are not filled.

L’World Health Organization (WHO) and Unicef ​​are sounding the alarm. The reported cases of measles exploded by almost 80% worldwide during the first two months of the year, these two UN organizations announced on Wednesday April 27.

The risk of “catastrophe” is “absolute” if the dangerous delay in the vaccination of children due to the Covid-19 pandemic is not caught up and if the health restrictions are lifted too quickly, had already alerted the WHO.

The result is dizzying. The number of cases jumped 79% in the first two months of 2022, compared to the same period last year. The two UN agencies now fear the appearance of serious epidemics of measles, a highly contagious viral disease, which could affect “millions of children” in 2022.

Underestimated numbers

So far, some 17,338 measles cases have been reported globally in January and February 2022, compared to 9,665 in the first two months of 2021. But the numbers are likely higher as the pandemic has disrupted health systems. surveillance.

There have been 21 significant measles outbreaks in the last twelve months (to April), most of them in Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean region.

Countries with the largest measles outbreaks since last year include Somalia, Yemen, Nigeria, l’Afghanistan and Ethiopia.

Because measles is highly contagious, cases tend to appear when vaccination levels drop. The two UN agencies fear that outbreaks of measles are a harbinger of outbreaks of other diseases that spread more slowly.

Not enough vaccination due to Covid-19

The best protection against measles, which takes its name from the characteristic red patches all over the body, is very high vaccination coverage.

According to the WHO and Unicef, too many children have not been able to benefit from measles vaccines due in particular to the disruption of health systems linked to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In 2020, 23 million children worldwide did not receive basic childhood vaccines through routine health services, the highest number since 2009 and 3.7 million more than in 2019, according to WHO and UNICEF.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted immunization services, health systems have been overwhelmed and we are now seeing a resurgence of deadly diseases, including measles. For many other diseases, the impact of these service disruptions vaccination will be felt for decades,” warned WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Launch “catch-up” vaccination campaigns

The risk of large outbreaks increases as countries ease preventive measures taken to combat Covid-19, such as observing physical distancing.

“It is encouraging to see that people in many communities are beginning to feel sufficiently protected against Covid-19 to resume more social activities. But doing so in places where children do not receive routine vaccinations creates the conditions perfect for a disease like measles to spread,” UNICEF chief executive Catherine Russell warned.

“Now is the time to get essential immunization programs back on track and launch catch-up campaigns so that everyone can have access to these life-saving vaccines,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The displacement of millions of people due to conflicts and crises in Ukraine, Ethiopia, Somalia and Afghanistan, among others, also increases the risk of epidemics among already very weakened populations.

With AFP

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