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  • A doctor prepares an MMR injection, which prevents measles, mumps and rubella.

    A doctor prepares an MMR injection, which prevents measles, mumps and rubella. | Photo: Reuters

Published 1 March 2019

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 136,000 people were killed by the almost 50% increase in worldwide cases of the disease.

In 2018, some 98 countries across the globe reported an increase in measles cases, over the previous years, with three-quarters of the worldwide surge attributed to only 10 countries.

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While most of the countries listed are developing countries facing conflict, among them is France, one of the world's wealthiest nations. Some other countries on the list are Yemen, Serbia, Madagascar, Sudan and Thailand. 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 136,000 people were killed by the almost 50% increase in worldwide cases. The spike, the United Nations (UN) warned, is a result of conflict, complacency and misinformation. In some countries, the so-called "anti-vax" movement is threatening to reverse years of research that, until now, has curbed the disease. 

The executive director of UNICEF Henrietta Fore mentions that "almost all of these cases are preventable and yet children are getting infected even in places where there is simply no excuse. Measles may be the disease, but all too often the real infection is misinformation, mistrust and complacency."

The anti-vaccine movement, linked to debunked claims that the measles vaccine causes autism, has been described by the WHO as one of the top 10 major threats to global health for this year.  

Ukraine alone experienced an 85% increase with 35,120 cases in 2018. After reporting zero cases in 2017, Brazil reported 10,262 the following year. Colombia and Chile also reported a resurgence after recording no cases in 2017.

Measles, a respiratory illness, is classified by symptoms such as fever, cough, runny nose, conjunctivitis and rash. The disease is more contagious than Ebola or tuberculosis, due to the fact that it can remain airborne for up to two hours after an infected person coughs or sneezes in an aarea. The only known method of prevention is vaccination

Fore calls this "a wakeup call." She stresses that "we have a safe, effective and inexpensive vaccine against a highly contagious disease - a vaccine that saved almost a million lives every year over the last two decades."

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