The worrying rise in measles cases worldwide is a growing threat to children

In 2018, threequarters of the total increase in measles cases involved ten countries, including major epidemics in Brazil, Madagascar, the Philippines, Ukraine and Yemen.

NEW YORK, 1 st March 2019 The number of measles cases in the world reached worrying levels, especially in ten countries representing over 74% of the total increase and several others where we saw up here that the disease was gone, warns UNICEF today.

In 2018, 98 countries worldwide reported more cases of measles than in 2017, which marks a decline in progress in the fight against this highly preventable but potentially lifethreatening disease.

The ten countries with the largest increase in the number of cases in 2017 and 2018 [1]

Ukraine: 30,338

Philippines: 13,192

Brazil: 10,262

Yemen: 6,641

Venezuela: 4,916

Serbia

: 4,355 Madagascar: 4,307

Sudan: 3,496

Thailand: 2,758

France: 2,269

It is in Ukraine, the Philippines and Brazil that the increase in the number of measles cases was the largest in 2018, compared to 2017. In Ukraine alone, 35,120 cases of measles were reported in 2018 According to the country’s government, an additional 24,042 people were infected in the first two months of 2019. This year, in the Philippines, 12,736 measles cases and 203 deaths were reported [2] , compared with 15,599 case for the whole of 2018.

“We are sounding the alarm. We have a safe, effective and inexpensive vaccine against a highly contagious disease, a vaccine that has saved nearly one million lives each year for two decades, “said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta H. Fore. “These cases did not appear overnight. The serious epidemics we are witnessing today took hold in 2018, and in the same way, today’s inaction will lead to catastrophic consequences for children tomorrow. “

Measles is extremely contagious, more than Ebola, tuberculosis or influenza. It is possible to contract the virus for up to two hours after an infected person has left the room. The virus spreads by air, infects the respiratory system and can be fatal for malnourished children or infants too young to be vaccinated. When the disease has been contracted, there is no specific treatment. The vaccine is therefore vital for children.

To combat these epidemics, UNICEF and its partners are helping governments to urgently vaccinate millions of children around the world. For example :

In Ukraine , UNICEF is providing ongoing support to accelerate routine immunization across the country and address reluctance to immunize. In particular, it organized additional actions to end the most recent epidemic that has killed 30 people since 2017. In February, with the help of UNICEF, the Ministry of Health launched a vaccination campaign in schools and clinics in the Lviv region of western Ukraine, the region most affected by the epidemic. Indeed, because of negative attitudes towards vaccination and shortages of vaccines, immunization rates are low.

In the Philippines , with the help of UNICEF and its partners, the government will campaign to vaccinate nine million children against measles in 17 regions. The organizers want to mobilize concerned parents and health workers through social networks.

In Brazil , in August and September 2018, the government organized a campaign against polio and measles targeting more than 11 million children under the age of five. UNICEF urged the population to be vaccinated and trained health surveillance officers working in homes for Venezuelan migrants. UNICEF has integrated measles immunization into its UNICEF Seal of Exemplary Municipalities program for 1,924 municipalities.

In Yemen , where several years of conflict led to an epidemic, local authorities vaccinated more than 11.5 million children in February, with support from UNICEF, WHO and GAVI.

In Madagascar , from September 3 to February 21, 76,871 people contracted measles and 928 people died, mostly children. In January, with the help of several partners, including UNICEF, the government launched a vaccination campaign targeting the country’s 114 districts. More than two million children have been vaccinated in 25 districts. In February, 1.4 million children were vaccinated, and another 3.9 million are expected to receive the vaccine in March.

Countries reporting a number of measles cases in 2018 when no cases were reported in 2017

Brazil: 10,262

Moldova: 312

Montenegro: 203

Colombia: 188

TimorLeste: 59

Peru: 38

Chile: 23

Uzbekistan: 17

In both developed and developing countries, these epidemics are sometimes caused by poor health infrastructure, civil unrest, low awareness of the population, reduced vigilance and reluctance to immunize. For example, in the United States, the number of measles cases has increased sixfold between 2017 and 2018 to 791 last year. Recently, outbreaks have occurred in New York and Washington State.

“These cases are almost all preventable, yet children are infected in places where they have absolutely no reason to be infected,” said Fore. “If it is indeed measles infection, too often, the real scourges are misinformation, mistrust and decreased vigilance. We must step up our efforts to provide more reliable information to all parents in order to vaccinate all children in good conditions. “

To fight measles, UNICEF is urgently calling on governments, health care providers and parents to step up their efforts to contain the epidemic. For this, they must:

Understand that vaccines are safe and effective and that they can save a child’s life;

Vaccinate all children aged 6 months to 5 years during epidemics;

Train and equip health workers to provide quality services;

Strengthen immunization programs to administer all vaccines that save lives.

Source: UN Children’s Fund

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