A young child who is infected with measles.

WHO Raises Concern Over Rapid Spread of Measles

The World Health Organisation (WHO), on Tuesday, voiced alarm at the rapid spread of measles, with more than 306,000 cases reported worldwide last year – a 79-per cent increase from 2022.

The WHO technical adviser on measles and rubella, Natasha Crowcroft said, “We in the measles world are extremely concerned.”

Measles is a highly contagious, serious airborne disease caused by a virus that can lead to severe complications and death. It majorly affects children.

Crowcroft stressed though that measles cases are typically dramatically under-reported, and that the real number was surely far higher.

To get more accurate figures, the UN health agency models the numbers each year, with its latest estimate indicating that there were 9.2 million cases and 136,216 measles deaths in 2022.

Such modelling has not yet been done for last year, but Crowcroft pointed out that 2022 had already seen a 43-percent jump in deaths from the year before.

Given the ballooning case numbers, “we would anticipate an increase in deaths in 2023 as well”, she told journalists in Geneva, via video link from Cairo.

“This year is going to be very challenging.”

She warned that more than half of all countries globally are currently believed to be at high risk of measles outbreaks by the end of the year.

Crowcroft said a major cause of the swelling numbers is the “backsliding immunisation coverage.”

At least 95 per cent of children need to be fully vaccinated against the disease in a locality to prevent outbreaks, but global vaccination rates have slipped to 83 per cent.

There is a great deal of inequity in the distribution of cases, and even more so when it comes to deaths.

Crowcroft pointed out that 92 per cent of all children who die from measles live among less than a quarter of the global population, mainly in very low-income countries.