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Measles now an imminent global threat due to pandemic, say WHO and CDC

There is now an imminent threat of measles spreading in various regions globally, as COVID-19 led to a steady decline in vaccination coverage and weakened surveillance of the disease, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. public health agency said on Wednesday.

November 24, 2022
By Jennifer Rigby
24 November 2022

By Jennifer Rigby

Nov 23 (Reuters) – There is now an imminent threat of
measles spreading in various regions globally, as COVID-19 led
to a steady decline in vaccination coverage and weakened
surveillance of the disease, the World Health Organization (WHO)
and the U.S. public health agency said on Wednesday.

Measles is one of the most contagious human viruses and is
almost entirely preventable through vaccination. However, it
requires 95% vaccine coverage to prevent outbreaks among
populations.

A record high of nearly 40 million children missed a measles
vaccine dose in 2021 due to hurdles created by the COVID
pandemic, the WHO and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC) said in a joint report.

While measles cases have not yet gone up dramatically
compared to previous years, now is the time to act, the WHO’s
measles lead, Patrick O’Connor, told Reuters.

“We are at a crossroads,” he said on Tuesday. “It is going
to be a very challenging 12-24 months trying to mitigate this.”

A combination of factors like lingering social distancing
measures and cyclical nature of measles may explain why there
has not yet been an explosion of cases despite the widening
immunity gaps, but that could change quickly, said O’Connor,
pointing out the highly contagious nature of the disease.

The WHO has already seen an increase of large disruptive
outbreaks since the start of 2022, rising from 19 to almost 30
by September, O’Connor said, adding that he was particularly
worried about parts of sub-Saharan Africa.
(Reporting by Raghav Mahobe in Bengaluru and Jennifer Rigby in
London; Editing by Maju Samuel)

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