Measles infections have risen in the last year, causing alarm in both developed and developing countries. While outbreaks in developed countries can largely be attributed to the so-called ‘anti-vaxxer’ movement – as reported by STAND earlier this year – the causes behind the outbreaks in developing countries are often different and more likely to relate to a lack of access to the vaccine as a result of conflicts or weak health infrastructures. According to the World Health Organization, more than 95% of deaths caused by measles occur in low income countries, with young children under the age of five at the highest risk.
The most notable increase occurred in Ukraine, with an increase of 30,338 more infections than the year before, and a total of 35,120 infections in 2018. In the first two months of 2019, there were already 24,042 cases reported in the country.
This is followed by notable increases in the Philippines, Brazil (which had no infection in 2017 compared to 10,262 in 2018), Yemen and Venezuela. Several of these countries suffer from ongoing conflicts, making access to vaccinations more difficult.
According to UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore, there is “a safe, effective and inexpensive vaccine” but once infected, there is no specific treatment against the disease. Measles are highly contagious and are spread through air, even up to two hours after an infected person has left a room. As a result, UNICEF is undertaking large-scale campaigns in affected countries, where weak health infrastructure and low awareness for the danger of the disease are the main causes for lack of prevention efforts.
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Image courtesy of UNICEF Ethiopia via Flickr