As the World Health Organization (WHO) warns of a massive resurgence of measles cases in the European region and Central Asia, urgent measures need to be taken to combat this highly contagious disease. While measles is generally known to heal within ten days, complications can arise in 30% of cases, leading to serious health consequences even death.
Rising Numbers and Vulnerable Groups
In 2023, the number of reported measles cases has skyrocketed to 42,200, compared to just 941 cases in 2022, representing an alarming increase by over forty times. Among these cases, children aged 1 to 4 years and those over the age of 20 are particularly affected, comprising 2 out of every 5 cases. The severity of the situation is further highlighted by nearly 21,000 hospitalizations and five deaths related to measles recorded between January and October 2023.
Kazakhstan and Europe’s Battle
Kazakhstan currently bears the brunt of the measles outbreak in Europe, but neighboring countries such as the United Kingdom, Romania, Austria, and Germany are also witnessing a concerning upward trend in cases. In fact, the total number of measles cases in the EU/EEA has been steadily increasing since June 2023, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention Control.
Impact of COVID-19
The decline in measles cases observed in recent years can largely be attributed to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. With minimal viral circulation in 2021, the number of suspected measles cases decreased significantly. However, a recent outbreak declared in September 2023 at a college in Ardèche, France, saw 64 reported cases in just two months, surpassing the total number of cases recorded throughout 2022.
The Global Picture
Globally, measles remains a substantial public health concern. In 2022 alone, there were nine million reported cases and 136,000 deaths, predominantly among children. This highlights the urgent need for comprehensive vaccination campaigns to protect communities against outbreaks.
Declining Vaccination Rates
One of the main contributing factors to the resurgence of measles is the decline in vaccination rates. In recent years, there has been a noticeable decrease in both first and second doses of measles-containing vaccines. National coverage for the first dose has dropped from 96% in 2019 to 93% in 2022, while coverage for the second dose decreased from 92% in 2019 to 91% in 2022. Alarmingly, over 1.8 million infants have not received measles vaccinations between 2020 and 2022, leaving them vulnerable to the disease.
The Urgent Call for Vaccination
To address this alarming situation, it is crucial that individuals prioritize vaccination as the most effective way to protect themselves and prevent the spread of measles. While barrier measures can play a role in preventing transmission, WHO emphasizes that vaccination remains paramount. Achieving global vaccination coverage rates of at least 95% for the first dose is essential to safeguard communities from devastating measles outbreaks.
- Measles cases have experienced a massive resurgence in the European region and Central Asia.
- Complications and deaths from measles occur in around 30% of cases.
- Children aged 1-4 years and adults over 20 are particularly affected.
- Kazakhstan is most affected, but other European countries also face rising numbers.
- COVID-19 contributed to a decline in measles cases, but recent outbreaks demonstrate the ongoing threat.
- Globally, nine million measles cases and 136,000 deaths were reported in 2022.
- Vaccination rates have been declining, leaving vulnerable populations susceptible to measles.
- Vaccination is the most effective way to prevent measles and protect communities.
The resurgence of measles cases poses a significant danger to public health. Urgent action must be taken to increase vaccination rates and combat this highly contagious disease. Everyone has a role to play in protecting themselves and their communities against measles by ensuring they receive the necessary vaccinations.