According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, global cases of measles have gone up by 18 percent from 2021 to 2022, due to low vaccination rates.
During that same period, deaths due to measles have gone up by 43 percent worldwide.
Dr. John Brownstein, the chief innovation officer at Boston Children’s Hospital, has described the alarming increase as “a clear warning sign”, that the drop in vaccination rates “has set the stage for the resurgence”, especially those who are vulnerable, such as children.
So far in the United States, there have been 41 confirmed measles cases in over a dozen states. In 2019, domestic cases surged, with nearly 1,300 people sick in over 31 states, which was the greatest number of cases since 1992.
According to Brownstein, the recent outbreaks serve as a “stark reminder of the consequences of vaccine hesitancy.” He also emphasized the need for public health campaigns to boost confidence in the uptake of the vaccine.
The data from the report shows that most of the current cases are among young people who have not received the vaccine. Most outbreaks also occur in groups who are not up to date with their vaccinations.
According to the CDC, approximately 92 percent of adolescents between the ages of 13 and 17 received the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine in 2019. To protect communities from outbreaks, a vaccination coverage rate of 95 percent is necessary, for both doses.
Childhood vaccinations, including the chickenpox, polio, diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis vaccines, have also gone down in recent years among kindergarteners – from 95 percent to 93 percent in 2021.
For maximum protection against measles, children require two doses of the MMR vaccine. The first dose is typically given when the child is 12 months old while the second dose is given between the ages of 4 and 6.
According to health officials, 37 countries experienced large outbreaks last year, compared to 22 in 2021. While the majority of outbreaks were in Africa, there were also many in the Eastern Mediterranean area.
Brownstein emphasized that “it’s crucial to close the immunization gap”, especially in third-world countries as it’s a growing health crisis that affects children.
In 2022 alone, more than 33 million children missed an MMR vaccine dose, 11 million of whom had already received their first shot.
Symptoms of Measles
Symptoms usually develop 10 to 14 days after a person is exposed to the virus. They include fever, runny nose, conjunctivitis (inflamed eyes), dry cough, white spots inside the mouth and cheeks, and a skin rash that’s made of large blotches.
In most cases, the rash will last about a week. It will then eventually fade as other symptoms of the disease go away.
In those who are vulnerable, such as young children, the measles virus can lead to various complications such as bronchitis, diarrhea and vomiting, ear infection, pneumonia, and encephalitis.
In the U.S., approximately one in every five who gets the measles will need to be hospitalized.