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WHO warns half the world faces high measles risk 

WHO warns half the world faces high measles risk 

SWITZERLAND —The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday issued a stark warning that over half the world’s countries could face major measles outbreaks by year’s end unless urgent action is taken.  

The organization attributed the increased risk to gaps in routine vaccinations caused by disruptions during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Natasha Crowcroft, a senior WHO advisor on measles and rubella expressed concern about the likelihood of an out-of-control measles epidemic while saying that there is an urgent need to scale immunization efforts to bring the disease to a manageable level.  

 “We’re concerned about the significant gaps in immunization programs that emerged during the pandemic. Unless we address these gaps quickly with vaccinations, measles will exploit them, potentially leading to widespread outbreaks.” Natasha said.  

Data compiled by the WHO and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that more than half of all countries face a high or very high risk of outbreaks by December 2024. 

 This follows a 79% increase in reported measles cases last year, which the WHO considers just a fraction of the actual total. 

Crowcroft stressed the urgency of protecting children, acknowledging a “lack of commitment” from some governments due to competing priorities like economic crises and conflicts. 

Measles, a highly contagious airborne virus primarily affecting young children, is preventable with two doses of a vaccine. 

 Since 2000, over 50 million lives have been saved thanks to these vaccinations. 

Outbreaks have already been reported in every WHO region except the Americas, though Crowcroft warned that these are likely forthcoming there as well.  

Death rates are higher in poorer countries due to weaker healthcare systems, but Crowcroft emphasized that outbreaks and fatalities pose risks even in middle and high-income nations. 

“We witnessed numerous measles outbreaks around the world, particularly in middle-income countries,” she said. “We’re worried that 2024 could resemble 2019,” referencing a particularly severe year for measles outbreaks. 

However, the WHO emphasized that the situation is not irreversible as has been in previous cases and urged governments to prioritize strengthening immunization programs and ensuring every child receives the necessary vaccinations. 

 Healthcare systems also need to focus on catching up on missed vaccinations. 

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