New Delhi, May 8 (IANS) Measles is rising again in several countries including India, the US, the UK, New Zealand, Indonesia, and Ethiopia. Measles is a highly contagious, serious disease caused by a virus in the paramyxovirus family and it is normally passed through direct contact and through the air. The virus infects the respiratory tract, then spreads throughout the body.
With four confirmed cases, a measles outbreak has been reported in the Pukhri medical block of Chamba district in Himachal Pradesh. Following the outbreak on April 18, the Health Department has initiated active case search and identified 17 more children with measles-like symptoms.
The deadly disease of measles has also been reported in Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Hyderabad, Pune, and Mumbai.
In the UK, the Health Security Agency (UKHSA) reported a “very concerning” rise in the number of people catching measles in the country. In 2022, the country saw 54 cases, but the number stands at 49, in just four months of 2023.
Indonesia has recorded a total of 2,161 suspected measles cases (848 laboratory-confirmed and 1,313 clinically suspected) between January 2 and April 3, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Although measles is endemic in Ethiopia, the annual number of confirmed measles cases has “increased significantly” with 6,933 cases reported till May 1, the WHO said.
The global health body, in a recent report said, the number has been rising — from 1,953 in 2021 to 9,291 (an increase of more than 375 per cent) in 2022.
New Zealand detected a second case of measles with health experts warning it has the potential to “spread like wildfire” if people aren’t immunised.
Maine in the US has also detected 2 cases of measles, while American Samoa has declared a measles emergency after one confirmed and 31 probable cases of the viral infection.
The main symptoms of measles are a fever and a rash. But it can cause more serious complications including meningitis, and an infection can be fatal. That is why the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine is part of routine childhood immunisations.
Health experts note that the rise is due to decline in routine vaccination due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
A recent report released by UNICEF showed that 67 million children across the world missed out on either some or all routine vaccinations between 2019 and 2021, and 48 million children didn’t receive a single dose during this time period.
India had 2.71 million children in 2021 who did not receive even a single dose of vaccine against DTP3. About more than 3.5 million, accounting for 15 per cent of the world’s total, missed the vaccine in India, as per the report.
Measles jumps from person to person so readily that 95 per cent of people need to be immunised to block its spread.
“We are calling on all parents and guardians to make sure their children are up to date with their two MMR doses. It’s never too late to catch up, and you can get the MMR vaccine for free on the NHS whatever your age,” Dr Vanessa Saliba, from the UKHSA, said in a statement.
Meanwhile, a WHO report said that India is targeting a vaccination coverage of 95 per cent with two doses of measles and Rubella (MR) vaccine to achieve MR elimination. The MR vaccine is given free under India’s Universal Immunisation Programme. India also vaccinated over 344 million children between 2017 and February 2023 through a wide-age range MR vaccination campaign.