Measles Deaths Grow by Half

November 12, 2020 – Deaths from measles around the world increased by 50% between 2016 and 2019, and more than 200,000 people died last year from the preventable disease alone.

The World Health Organization on Thursday released new statistics that show 869,770 cases of measles, one of the most contagious diseases known to science, worldwide in 2019, the highest number since 1996. Increases have been reported in all regions.

The new report comes as officials in King County, WA, confirm a new case of measles in a child.

The boy was likely infected at Sea-Tac Airport outside of Seattle, the county’s public health department said on Wednesday.

“Measles outbreaks continue to circulate in many parts of the world. As long as people travel, no community is safe from the introduction of measles, “says Jeff Duchin, MD, public health officer for Seattle and King County.” The measles vaccine Measles is safe, effective and provides excellent protection. If you are not sure that you are up to date with the recommended doses of measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine, see your health care provider and get a dose of MMR if needed.

“During our COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to stay up to date on all scheduled childhood immunizations, so as not to lose important community protections against other serious infections.

So far in 2020, the CDC says there have been 12 confirmed cases in seven states or territories.

In the United States, 1,282 measles cases were reported in 2019, nearly four times more than in 2018, according to the CDC. This was the highest annual number since 1992. Eighty-nine percent of those infected were unvaccinated or had unknown vaccine status, and 10% were hospitalized, the agency said.

As measles cases around the world fell from 2010 to 2016, the numbers started to move in the wrong direction in 2017, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). One reason: vaccination rates have stagnated over the past decade.

Measles vaccinations are available in two doses. Global vaccination rates for the first dose are around 84% to 85%, according to the WHO, while rates for the second dose are only 71%. These rates must be around 95% to control and prevent epidemics.

Immunization rates for American children fell in the first half of 2020, the CDC said in May, in part because of the coronavirus pandemic, which has made some parents hesitate to visit doctor’s offices. Recommended vaccinations for 5-month-olds have dropped from about two-thirds of children from 2016 to 2019 to less than half by May 2020, CNBC reported.

The good news is that infection rates in 2020 are therefore much lower, but the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed vaccination efforts in many countries.

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Jothi Venkat

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