WHO, UNICEF warn about ‘perfect storm’ for measles in children

WHO, UNICEF warn about ‘perfect storm’ for measles in children
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WHO, UNICEF warn about ‘perfect storm’ for measles in children

WHO, UNICEF warn about ‘perfect storm’ for measles in children

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UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) are warning communities that what they say is a “perfect storm” to the situation of measles outbreaks in children.

The agency said the number of reported measles cases worldwide increased by 79% in the first two months of 2022 compared to the same period last year.

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About 17,338 measles cases were reported worldwide in January and February 2022, compared to 9,665 in the first two months of 2021.

The most prevalent countries are Somalia, Yemen, Nigeria, Afghanistan and Ethiopia.

In the last 12 months from April 2021 to April 2022, there have been 21 major and intermittent outbreaks, most of which have been reported in Africa and the eastern Mediterranean. That number could be much higher than reported.

The number of measles cases in Africa has increased by 400%, with more than 17,000 cases reported between January and March.

The WHO said the increase in cases was “a worrying sign of a higher risk for the spread of vaccine-preventable diseases and could lead to a greater outbreak” that affected millions of children.

The agency noted that COVID-19 epidemics-related disruptions, vaccine inequalities, and deviations from routine immunizations continue to protect children from measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases.

Conflicts and crises have exacerbated the risk by loose COVID-19 mitigation measures and displacement.

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“Because measles is highly contagious, cases are more likely to occur when vaccination rates are low. Companies are concerned that measles outbreaks may predict outbreaks of other diseases that do not spread rapidly,” it said.

“The COVID-19 epidemic has disrupted vaccination services, overwhelmed the health system and we are now seeing a resurgence of deadly diseases, including measles. For many other diseases, the impact of these disruptions on vaccination services will be felt for decades to come,” said Dr. Said in a statement. “Now is the time to get back to the vital vaccine track and launch a catch-up campaign so that everyone has access to these life-saving vaccines.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the measles virus is spread through the air and is highly contagious.

It can also cause serious health complications, especially in children under 5 years of age.

In the United States, one in five measles cases will be hospitalized, one in 1,000 will develop brain swelling and one in three will die in 1,000 – even with optimal care.

The WHO noted that the measles virus weakens the immune system, making a child more at risk for other infectious diseases for months after infection.

Two doses of measles vaccine may protect children against measles, but barriers have delayed the introduction of a second dose of measles vaccine in many countries.

In 2020, 23 million children were excluded from early childhood vaccines through routine health services: the highest number since 2009 and 3.7 million more than in 2019.

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