Measles: Increase in cases can trigger outbreaks, UNICEF, WHO warn


Blessing Bature, Abuja

World Health Organisation and the United Nations Children Fund have warned that an increase in measles cases in January and February 2022 is a worrying sign of a heightened risk for the spread of “vaccine-preventable diseases” and could trigger larger outbreaks, particularly of measles affecting millions of children

In a press release published on UNICEF website, the international agencies stated that there was a 79 per cent increase in cases of measles in the first two months of 2022, compared to the same period in 2021.

The statement quoted the Executive Director, UNICEF, Catherine Russell as saying that measles is more than a dangerous and potentially deadly disease.

Russell stated, “It is encouraging that people in many communities are beginning to feel protected enough from COVID-19 to return to more social activities. But doing so in places where children are not receiving routine vaccination creates the perfect storm for the spread of a disease like measles.”

According to her, Almost 17,338 measles cases were reported worldwide in January and February 2022, compared to 9,665 during the first two months of 2021. As measles is very contagious, cases tend to show up quickly when vaccination levels decline.

The statement reads further, “The risk for large outbreaks has increased as communities relax social distancing practices and other preventive measures for COVID-19 implemented during the height of the pandemic. In addition, with millions of people being displaced due to conflicts and crises including in Ukraine, Ethiopia, Somalia and Afghanistan, disruptions in routine immunization and COVID-19 vaccination services, lack of clean water and sanitation, and overcrowding increase the risk of vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks.”

The international agencies said in 2020, 23 million children missed out on basic childhood vaccines through routine health services, the highest number since 2009 and 3.7 million more than in 2019.