Measles: UNICEF warns Coronavirus could bring resurgence
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More than 22 million people worldwide missed their first dose of a measles vaccine in 2020, according to a new report by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The WHO now believes the risk of measles is growing, despite reported cases dropping by more than 80 percent in the same year.
Kate O’Brien, director of WHO’s Department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals said: “While reported measles cases dropped in 2020, evidence suggests we are likely seeing the calm before the storm as the risk of outbreaks continues to grow around the world.”
Ms O’Brien said countries need to ensure routine immunisations are not hampered by the coronavirus vaccine effort, otherwise “we risk trading one deadly disease for another”.
Some 22 million children missed their first dose in 2020 – an increase of three million from 2019.
To make matters worse, only 70 percent of children received their second dose – 25 percent short of the 95 percent target.
In 2020, 24 measles vaccination campaigns in 23 countries were postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Kevin Cain, MD, CDC’s Global Immunization Director, said: “Large numbers of unvaccinated children, outbreaks of measles, and disease detection and diagnostics diverted to support COVID-19 responses are factors that increase the likelihood of measles-related deaths and serious complications in children.
“We must act now to strengthen disease surveillance systems and close immunity gaps, before travel and trade return to pre-pandemic levels, to prevent deadly measles outbreaks and mitigate the risk of other vaccine-preventable diseases.”
Measles is one of the most contagious diseases in the world – and there were an estimated 7.5 million cases in 2020.
What are the symptoms of measles?
Measles usually begins with a high fever around 10 to 12 days after exposure.
Symptoms usually develop into a cough, runny nose, red and watery eyes, and small white spots developing inside the cheeks.
After initial symptoms, a rash will erupt on the face and neck, and can spread all over the body.
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Who is likely to die from measles?
Children under the age of five are most likely to die from measles – with 140,000 people dying in 2018.
This was reduced to some 60,000 in 2020 – but the death toll could grow due to the lack of vaccinations taking place across the world.
Measles death usually occur due to complications brought about by infection.
Complications are more common in young children or adults over the age of 30, according to the WHO.
Serious complications include encephalitis, blindness, severe dehydration caused by diarrhoea, and severe respiratory infections like pneumonia.
Cases of the disease are more likely among poorly nourished children with weaker immune systems.
Thankfully, there were only 79 cases of measles in the UK in 2020.
But this number has varied considerably from year to year – with 989 cases in 2018, and 2,032 in 2012.
Deaths are overall low, with the last infant death in the UK from measles occurring in 2016.
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