Measles Rates Have Risen 30 Percent In Two Years (And You'd Never Guess Why)

Child with measles modified by cyanosis. Wellcome Collection

Tonight, you can rest safe in the knowledge that neither you nor a loved will suffer death, severe scarring, or blindness as a result of the smallpox virus. And you can count polio, rubella, and tetanus as some of the other diseases eradicated or almost eradicated in the US and large parts of the world.

For all this, we can thank Edward Jenner – the inventor of the first successful vaccine.

But, at least in this regard, it looks like progress is stalling. According to the latest figures reported by World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), measles cases are spiking globally and, unlike Marlon Brando’s turn in The Godfather, this is not a comeback we want to see.

Falling vaccination rates are the reason given for the worrying rise in the number of cases reported in the last two years. The Western Pacific region is the only part of the world that appears to have bucked the trend and actually show a decline in incidents. Meanwhile, the Americas, Eastern Mediterranean Region, and Europe have seen the largest increases.

In total, the report finds global incidence of the disease has increased by more than 30 percent from 2016.

“The resurgence of measles is of serious concern, with extended outbreaks occurring across regions, and particularly in countries that had achieved, or were close to achieving measles elimination,” Soumya Swaminathan, the deputy director general for Programmes at WHO, said in a statement. “Without urgent efforts to increase vaccination coverage and identify populations with unacceptable levels of under-, or unimmunized children, we risk losing decades of progress in protecting children and communities against this devastating, but entirely preventable disease.”

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