WHO warns of ‘backsliding’ in measles fight as cases soar
he World Health Organization warned Thursday that efforts to halt the spread of measles were “backsliding”, with case numbers worldwide surging around 50 percent last year.
The UN health agency pointed to preliminary data showing that the disturbing trend of resurgent measles cases was happening at a global level, including in wealthy nations where vaccination coverage has historically been high.
“Our data are showing that there is a substantial increase in measles cases. We’re seeing this in all regions,” Katherine O’Brien, WHO’s director of immunisation, vaccines and biologicals, told reporters in Geneva.
“We’re having outbreaks that are protracted, that are sizable and that are growing,” she said. “This is not an isolated problem.”
O’Brien pointed out that less than 10 percent of actual measles cases are reported.
“So when we see the reported cases increasing by 50 percent, we know that we’re heading in the wrong direction,” she said, adding that the true number of infections was “in the millions”.
Countries have until April to report measles cases registered in 2018 to the WHO.
But the agency said the data it has received so far showed that around 229,000 cases had already been reported, compared to 170,000 for 2017.
Last year, measles caused approximately 136,000 deaths around the world, according to WHO’s preliminary figures.