Global progress in the fight against measles eroded last year and “vaccine hesitancy” is among the reasons, according to a report released Friday by the United Nations Children’s Fund on an alarming spike in the disease.
The report says 98 percent of countries reported an uptick in measles cases in 2018. Ukraine, the Philippines and Brazil had the largest increases.
“This is a wake up call. We have a safe, effective and inexpensive vaccine against a highly contagious disease – a vaccine that has saved almost a million lives every year over the last two decades,” the release quotes Henrietta Fore, UNICEF’s executive director.
Measles is becoming more common in both developed and developing countries, UNICEF reports. Reasons for the disease’s uptick include inadequate health infrastructure and civil unrest in addition to “low community awareness, complacency and vaccine hesitancy” in some regions, the report says.
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“Almost all of these cases are preventable, and yet children are getting infected even in places where there is simply no excuse,” the release quotes Fore. “Measles may be the disease, but, all too often, the real infection is misinformation, mistrust and complacency. We must do more to accurately inform every parent, to help us safely vaccinate every child.”
In the U.S., a measles outbreak in Clark County, Washington — a known anti-vaccination hot spot — has led to more than 60 confirmed cases since the beginning of the year. Most cases are affecting un-vaccinated children younger than 10. No deaths have been reported.
It’s one of six measles outbreaks currently being tracked by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
One of those outbreaks is in Texas, where state representative Bill Zedler made headlines this week for claiming that measles is not killing people in America because of “antibiotics and that kind of stuff.”
There is no treatment for measles, a highly contagious virus that can be fatal. Antibiotics treat bacterial infections and can’t kill viruses.
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The CDC has recognized that the number of children who aren’t being vaccinated by 24 months old has been gradually increasing. People choosing not to vaccinate have become a global health threat in 2019, the World Health Organization reported.
Before the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine was available in America, about 450 to 500 people died from measles each year. The CDC reports there has been at least one case of a measles death within the past five years.
National and world health officials worry that an anti-vaccination movement could increase that number.
Contributing: Ashley May