Tuesday June 18, 2019

WHO Calls for Better Vaccination Coverage Against Increasing Number of Measles Cases

The United Nations agency, citing preliminary data, said that more than 112,000 cases of the preventable but highly contagious disease have been reported across the globe

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Steve Sierzega receives a measles, mumps and rubella vaccine at the Rockland County Health Department in Pomona, N.Y., March 27, 2019. VOA

The number of measles cases worldwide nearly quadrupled in the first three months of the year compared to last year, the World Health Organization reported Monday.

The United Nations agency, citing preliminary data, said that more than 112,000 cases of the preventable but highly contagious disease have been reported across the globe in the January-to-March period. WHO called for better vaccination coverage against measles, which can kill or leave a child disabled for life.

Over recent months, WHO said spikes in the disease have occurred “in countries with high overall vaccination coverage, including the United States … as well as Israel, Thailand, and Tunisia, as the disease has spread fast among clusters of unvaccinated people.”

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Public health authorities worry about outbreaks in communities where vaccination rates are low, fueled by a growing movement of people who view the MMR vaccine, mumps and rubella as dangerous. VOA

“While this data is provisional and not yet complete, it indicates a clear trend,” WHO said. “Many countries are in the midst of sizeable measles outbreaks, with all regions of the world experiencing sustained rises in cases.”

The agency said the reported number of cases often lags behind the number of actual cases, meaning that the number of documented cases likely does not reflect the actual severity of the measles outbreaks.

For three weeks in a row, U.S. health authorities have added dozens of new reports of measles to its yearly total, now at 555, the biggest figure in five years. Twenty of the 50 U.S. states have now reported measles cases.

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FILE – 15-month-old August Goepferd received mumps and rubella booster shot at a clinic at Children’s Minnesota in Minneapolis. VOA

ALSO READ: New York Takes Drastic Steps to Prevent Spread of Measles Outbreak

More than half of the U.S. total — 285 cases — have been reported in New York City. Officials in the country’s largest city last week ordered mandatory measles vaccinations to halt the outbreak that has been concentrated among ultra-Orthodox Jews in the city’s Brooklyn borough.

City health department officials blamed anti-vaccine propagandists for distributing misinformation in the community. (VOA)

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Measles Cases in US Cross 1,000 Mark for 2019

As of last week, the total for 2019 had already reached the highest point in any year since 1992, when there were 2,237 cases of the infectious disease reported

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FILE - A man walks past a sign advising about a measles outbreak in the Brooklyn borough of New York, April 25, 2019. VOA

The number of measles cases confirmed in the United States in 2019 has reached 1,001, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report said this week. As of last week, the total for 2019 had already reached the highest point in any year since 1992, when there were 2,237 cases of the infectious disease reported.

“The Department of Health and Human Services has been deeply engaged in promoting the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, amid concerning signs that there are pockets of undervaccination around the country,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement Thursday.

Azar reinforced the importance of vaccines in combating the outbreak.

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FILE – A vial of the measles, mumps, and rubella virus (MMR) vaccine is pictured at the International Community Health Services clinic in Seattle. VOA

“We cannot say this enough: Vaccines are a safe and highly effective public health tool that can prevent this disease and end the current outbreak. I encourage all Americans to talk to your doctor about what vaccines are recommended to protect you, your family, and your community from measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases,” he said.

Measles is highly contagious. The disease is usually spread through sneezing and coughing. It can linger in the air for up to two hours. Cases have been reported in more than half of U.S. states. New York has had the highest total, with nearly 700 cases reported this year.

Most of those cases have been in Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn and Queens, where there are low vaccination rates. The New York City Department of Health said that as of Monday, 566 cases had been confirmed in those areas since September.

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Los Angeles County Department of Public Health experts, Muntu Davis, Health Officer, left, and Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer answer questions regarding the measles response and the quarantine orders during a news conference in Los Angeles Friday, April 26, 2019. VOA

Clark County in Washington state had the second-largest outbreak in the U.S. this year with more than 70 cases reported. According to the CDC, the outbreaks in New York City and Rockland County, N.Y., threaten to nullify the nation’s status of having officially eliminated measles.

ALSO READ: U.S. Measles Outbreak Raises Concerns About Immunity in Adults

“That loss would be a huge blow for the nation and erase the hard work done by all levels of public health. The measles elimination goal, first announced in 1966 and accomplished in 2000, was a monumental task,” the CDC said in a May press release.

“Before widespread use of the measles vaccine, an estimated 3 [million] to 4 million people got measles each year in the United States, along with an estimated 400 to 500 deaths and 48,000 hospitalizations,” the release said. (VOA)