Measles is on the rise again: the number of infections reported worldwide rose by 79 percent at the beginning of the year, according to the UN child protection organization UNICEF and the WHO World Health Organization. One reason is vaccination campaigns that were interrupted by the coron pandemic. Missing vaccinations threatened the lives of millions of children, UN agencies warned.
In the first two months of the year more than 17,300 cases of measles were registered worldwide, significantly more than 9600 cases in the same months of the previous year. In a 12-month period until April, there have been 21 major measles outbreaks worldwide, most of them in Africa and the eastern Mediterranean.
crises as a cause
As the most contagious of vaccine-preventable infectious diseases, measles acted as an alarm signal, Unicef expert Christopher Gregory told AFP. Measles outbreaks showed weakness in immunization campaigns. For example, an early increase in yellow fever infections is to be feared. An increasing number of cases are already reported from West Africa.
Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Ethiopia have been particularly badly affected by measles in the last twelve months. Experts fear an increase in cases in Ukraine as a result of the war of Russian aggression. The country has already recorded the highest rates of measles infection in Europe in 2017-2019.
According to UN agencies, more than 23 million children lost routine measles vaccines at the start of the corona pandemic by 2020. In 43 countries, vaccination campaigns that were delayed due to the pandemic have not yet been fully completed. 203 million people are affected, most of them children.
WHO Secretary General Tedro Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned that the consequences of these interrupted vaccination campaigns would be felt for decades to come. It is time to resume basic immunization against infectious diseases.
How are measles pathogens spread?
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease that spreads faster than the flu or Ebola. The first signs of a possible measles infection are red spots and itching. At first they are mostly visible behind the ears. The amount of virus is greatest three days before the appearance of spots. The patient is already contagious, usually without even knowing it. A reliable diagnosis is made by detecting antibodies in the blood.
Measles pathogens are airborne. Therefore, infected people pass the virus directly through the air in the form of finer droplets of saliva or mucus. These arise, for example, when you cough or sneeze, but are also released when you speak. Measles is highly contagious. On average, each affected person infects 15 other people. Humans are the only natural hosts of the measles virus.
Typical complications are middle ear and pneumonia. One of the worst diseases that measles virus can cause is meningitis. It can lead to severe brain damage and mental disability, and in the worst case can even be fatal.
Vaccination is the best protection
Dual measles vaccination prevents about 98 to 99 percent of those vaccinated from developing the disease and usually provides them with lifelong protection.
Vaccinated in two partial vaccinations with attenuated measles viruses, a live vaccine. The Standing Vaccination Committee (STIKO) of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) recommends measles vaccination in combination with mumps and rubella. Vaccination should be done after 12 months. Thus parents can ensure that their child is protected from the dangerous virus.
hf, gh / af (OBSH, dpa, AFP)