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Majority of 140,000 people who died from Measles last year were under five years old

Four countries in Europe, including the UK, lost their measles elimination status last year.

Image: Shutterstock/Tero Vesalainen

THE MAJORITY OF the 140,000 people who died from measles in 2018 were under five years old.

Figures from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show there were 353,236 reported cases worldwide last year.

Provisional reporting up to November 2019 shows there has been 413,000 reported cases so far this year.

It means figures continue to rise above exceptionally dangerous levels. 

In Ireland, according to the HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre, some 74 cases of measles cases have been reported up to December this year, with 42 of those notifications confirmed as measles.

Last year, measles cases in Ireland grew by 244% from 25 in 2017 to 86 in 2018.

“The unacceptable number of children killed last year by a wholly preventable disease is proof that measles anywhere is a threat to children everywhere,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF’s executive director.

When children go unvaccinated in significant numbers, entire communities are at risk.

“We see that even today in remote places like in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where measles has killed more than 4,500 children under the age of five so far this year; or in Samoa, where a rapidly spreading measles outbreak has left many children ill and unable to go to school.”

An estimated 19 million children worldwide missed out on the first dose of the measles vaccine by their second birthday in 2018.

UNICEF and WHO report that the coverage of the measles vaccine has stagnated over the past decade, paving the way for the current outbreaks.

In 2018, only 86 per cent of children globally received the first dose of measles vaccine, and fewer than 70 per cent received the second recommended dose.

The spread of vaccine misinformation on social media is hard to tackle because of its reach, the HSE assistant national director, Dr Kevin Kelleher said last month.

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Speaking at the Health Service Executive (HSE) Winter Plan update, he said encouraging people to get vaccines is “a difficult message” to get across.

He said more people access health information online and on social media and some of it is not factual.

Four countries in Europe – the UK, Greece, Czechia, and Albania – lost their measles elimination status in 2018 following protracted outbreaks.

The top five countries, which accounted for 45% of the measles cases in 2018 were the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Madagascar, Somalia and Ukraine.

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