The past year has seen a global resurgence of the measles, affecting both war-torn countries such as Yemen, as well as western ones with a high public safety and infrastructure standards such as the US or Japan. Between 2017 and 2018, global measles cases increased by almost 50 percent, killing around 110,000. With the numbers continuing to rise in 2019 and reaching worrying levels that have prompted the World Health Organisation to officially declare a global resurgence of the disease. This could be the biggest epidemic of measles since the vaccine was first introduced in the 1960s.
Measles is a highly infective virus that can lead to serious complications like pneumonia, blindness, deafness and swelling of the brain. The danger of the disease also stems from a considerable delay in the symptoms, which appear only after 7-10 days after contagion, allowing it to spread among individuals who are essentially unaware. Symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose and red eyes, followed several days later by a rash that starts on the face and spreads to the body. The infectivity is around 90 percent within a 2-meter radius, affecting young children and adults with a weakened immune system, such as those suffering from cancer or transplant recipients. Infants around the age of 9-11 months old are the most at risk from the disease.
The measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine is extremely safe (almost never causing side effects), effective and is also inexpensive. As infants reach eligibility for the vaccine only at 12 months old, it is extremely important to have an extremely high immunisation rate to protect those most susceptible to the virus.
According to data reported by WHO, the countries with most cases as of early March 2019 are Madagascar, Ukraine, India, the Philippines, Venezuela, Yemen and Brazil. In Madagascar, one of the worst outbreaks in decades is occurring, with a vaccination rate dropping below 60 percent, almost 70,000 have been infected and around 900 people killed since October 2018. This shows how that in countries lacking access to medical infrastructure or even vaccinations, measles represents a credible cause of death.
The USA, which was declared measles-free in 2000, has also seen an increase in infection cases, particularly in the Washington and in the Pacific-North West, in response to a growing anti-vaccine movement fuelled high-level government representative supporting the unfunded theory that vaccines cause autism. The Washington governor recently declared a state of emergency in response to a growing number of measles cases in the city of Vancouver, in the south of the state.