Approximately three quarters of the total measles case increase in 2018 was recorded in 10 countries, including Brazil, the Philippines, Madagascar, Ukraine and Yemen, where serious outbreaks occurred
NEW YORK, March 1, 2019 UNICEF warned today that global cases of measles are reaching an alarmingly high level, especially in 10 countries that account for more than 74% of the total increase, but also in several others that have already been declared free of measles.
Ten countries where cases have increased between 2017 and 2018
1. Ukraine: 30,338
2. Philippines: 13,192
3. Brazil: 10,262
4. Yemen: 6,641
5. Venezuela: 4,916
6. Serbia: 4,355
7. Madagascar: 4,307
8. Sudan: 3,496
9. Thailand: 2,758
10. France: 2,269
Worldwide, 98 countries reported an increase in measles cases in 2018 compared to 2017, a figure that undermines progress in the fight against this highly preventable but also potentially deadly disease.
In Ukraine, the Philippines and Brazil, there were the largest increases in measles cases between 2017 and 2018. Only in Ukraine were recorded 35,120 cases of measles in 2018. According to the government, another 24,042 people contracted the infection only in the first two months of 2019 In the Philippines, so far this year, there have been 12,736 cases of measles and 203 deaths, compared to 15,599 cases that occurred throughout the year in 2018.
"This is a wakeup call. We have a safe, effective and inexpensive vaccine against a highly contagious disease, a vaccine that has saved nearly a million lives every year for the past two decades, "said Henrietta H. Fore, Executive Director of UNICEF. "These cases have not happened overnight. In the same way that the serious outbreaks that we are seeing today were extended in 2018, the lack of action today will have disastrous consequences for the children of tomorrow. "
Measles is very contagious, more than Ebola, tuberculosis or flu. A person can contract the virus up to two hours after the carrier has left a room. It spreads through the air and infects the respiratory tract, potentially endangering the lives of malnourished children or babies who are too young to be vaccinated. Once the infection occurs, there is no specific treatment for measles, so vaccination is a tool that saves children's lives.
In response to these outbreaks, UNICEF and its partners are supporting governments to urgently offer immunization services to millions of children in countries around the world. For example:
In Ukraine, UNICEF has provided ongoing support to accelerate routine immunization across the country and address concerns about the vaccine; this includes new activities aimed at stopping the most recent outbreak, which has claimed 30 lives since 2017. In February, the Ministry of Health, with the support of UNICEF, launched an immunization campaign in schools and clinics in the region. of Lviv, the most affected in western Ukraine, where negative attitudes towards immunization and previous episodes of vaccine shortage have resulted in low vaccination rates.
In the Philippines, the government, with the support of UNICEF and its partners, will carry out a campaign to vaccinate 9 million children against measles in 17 regions. Through the use of social networks, activists plan to encourage apprehensive fathers and mothers and health workers.
In Brazil, between August and September 2018, the government carried out a campaign against polio and measles targeting more than 11 million children under the age of five. UNICEF encouraged people to get vaccinated and trained health monitors who work in migrant shelters for Venezuelans. UNICEF has included the measles vaccine as part of the "Municipal Seal" program that covers 1,924 municipalities.
In Yemen, where the years of conflict led to an outbreak, local authorities, with the support of UNICEF, WHO and GAVI, vaccinated more than 11.5 million children in February.
In Madagascar, from September 3 to February 21, 76,871 people contracted measles and 928 died, mostly children. In January, the government, with the support of allies such as UNICEF, launched an immunization campaign targeting the 114 districts of the country. More than 2 million children were vaccinated in 25 districts. In February, 1.4 million children were vaccinated, and another 3.9 million more received vaccines in March.
Serious cases of measles registered in 2018 in countries where there were no cases in 2017
In some cases, these outbreaks have been due to inadequate health infrastructure, civil conflicts, poor community awareness, complacency and doubts about vaccines, both in developed and developing countries. . For example, in the United States, the number of cases of measles multiplied by six between 2017 and 2018, reaching 791 cases. In this same country there have been recent outbreaks in the states of New York and Washington.
"Almost all of these cases can be prevented, and yet children are becoming infected even in places where there is simply no excuse for it," Fore said. "Measles can be the disease, but, too often, the real infection is misinformation, distrust and complacency. We must make more efforts to accurately inform all fathers and mothers to help us safely vaccinate all children. "
To fight measles, UNICEF urgently appeals to governments, health care providers and parents to intensify their efforts through the following actions:
Understand that vaccines are safe and effective, and can save a child's life
Vaccinate all children between six months and five years during outbreaks
Train and equip health workers so they can provide services quality
Strengthen immunization programs to provide all lifesaving vaccines.
Source: UN Children's Fund