Home / News / World /  A measles patient can infect 18 others: WHO explains how deadly the virus can be

The recent measles outbreak is risking millions of lives, the World Health Organisation (WHO) asserted saying that a single case can lead to 12 to 18 infections. As the situation is getting worse this season, the UN health agency pointed out that the wrath of the virus was equally severe last year.

In a recent release, WHO said, in 2021, there were an estimated 9 million cases and 128 000 deaths from measles worldwide. Twenty-two countries experienced large and disruptive outbreaks.

The UN health agency identified ‘lack of vaccination’ and weakened surveillance to be the root cause for such outbreaks.

In 2021, a record high of nearly 40 million children missed a measles vaccine dose: 25 million children missed their first dose and an additional 14.7 million children missed their second dose.

“The paradox of the pandemic is that while vaccines against COVID-19 were developed in record time and deployed in the largest vaccination campaign in history, routine immunization programmes were badly disrupted, and millions of kids missed out on life-saving vaccinations against deadly diseases like measles," said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Getting immunization programmes back on track is absolutely critical. Behind every statistic in this report is a child at risk of a preventable disease."

Lowest vaccination coverage since 2008

The most concerning fact is though measles is extremely contagious, it is almost entirely preventable through vaccination. “Coverage of 95% or greater of 2 doses of measles-containing vaccine is needed to create herd immunity in order to protect communities and achieve and maintain measles elimination."

However, only 81% of children across the world have received their first measles-containing vaccine dose, and 71% got their second shots. “These are the lowest global coverage rates of the first dose of measles vaccination since 2008, although coverage varies by country," the WHO report cited

In 2021, nearly 61 million measles vaccine doses were postponed or missed due to COVID-19-related delays in immunization campaigns in 18 countries. Delays increase the risk of measles outbreaks, so the time for public health officials to accelerate vaccination efforts and strengthen surveillance is now.

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