While COVID-19 cases rise again in many parts of the world, another highly contagious virus is making a big comeback across several continents. New data shows an alarming spike in reported measles cases and deaths last year.
In a new joint report from the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were over 860,000 reported cases of measles across the world in 2019. That’s the highest it’s been in 20 years, with only 132,000 in 2016 and 343,000 in 2010. Including unreported cases, the report estimated that there were nearly 10 million cases of measles last year with over 207,000 attributable deaths.
Vaccination rates for measles remained steady in 2019, with the report estimating over 25 million lives were saved due to the effective implementation of vaccines. The adoption of a secondary vaccine dose saw a huge increase over the last two decades worldwide, going from 18 percent to 71 percent between 2000 and 2019. Still, vaccine rates from African countries are much lower than other continents, contributing to Africa having roughly 72 percent of all measles cases in the world last year. Vaccine education and thorough systems of distribution and access to vaccines is still needed in many countries.
The report ended by noting how the coronavirus pandemic has increased challenges with measles immunization efforts worldwide and will likely contribute to the rising trend in measles cases. Trust in health care providers has potentially eroded during the pandemic, and a reconnection to vulnerable communities is necessary to stop a global proliferation of measles.