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Measles has reduced worldwide!

According to the World Health Organization, Measles vaccination resulted in a 73% drop in measles deaths between 2000 and 2018 worldwide.

In 2018, about 86% of the world’s children received one dose of measles vaccine by their first birthday through routine health services – up from 72% in 2000.

Even though a safe cost-effective vaccine if available, in 2018, there were more than 140 000 measles deaths globally, mostly among children under the age of five

During 2000-2018, measles vaccination prevented an estimated 23.2 million deaths making measles vaccines one of the best buys in public health.

Measles and its severity

Measles is a viral disease that can spread rapidly. It is also known as rubella or morbilli. It is a viral infection that starts in the respiratory system. It still remains a significant cause of death worldwide, despite the availability of safe, and effective vaccines.

How does it spread?

Measles generally first appear within 10 to 12 days of exposure to the virus that include cough, fever, runny nose, red eyes, and sore throat.

A widespread skin rash is a classic sign of measles. This rash can last up to 7 days and generally appears with thin 14 days of exposure to the virus. It commonly develops on the head and slowly spreads to other parts of the body.

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Its virus – measles is caused by infection with a virus from the paramyxovirus family. Viruses are tiny parasitic microbes. Once you’ve been infected, the virus invades host cells and uses cellular components to complete its life cycle.


Measles is only known to occur in humans and not in other animals. There are 24 known genetic types of measles, although only 6 currently circulating

It can be spread through the air from respiratory droplets and small aerosol particles. An infected can release the virus into the air when cough or sneeze.

These respiratory particles can also settle on objects and surfaces. The humans can become infected if they come into contact with a contaminated object, such as a door handle, and then touch their face, nose, or mouth.

The measles virus can live outside of the body for longer than you may think. In fact, it can remain infectious in the air or on surfaces for up to two hours.

It is highly contiguous. This means that the infection can be spread very easily from to person to person. Before the introduction of measles vaccine in 1963 and widespread vaccination, major epidemics occurred approximately every 2–3 years and measles caused an estimated 2.6 million deaths each year.

A susceptible person that’s exposed to the measles virus has a 90% chance of becoming infected. Additionally, and an infected person can go to spread the virus to anywhere between 9 and 18 susceptible individuals.

The main risk factor for catching measles is being unvaccinated. Additionally, some groups are at a higher risk of developing complications from measles infection, including young children, people with a weakened immune system, and pregnant women.


Who is at risk?

Unvaccinated young children are at highest risk of measles and its complications, including death. Unvaccinated pregnant women are also at risk. Any non-immune person (who has not been vaccinated or was vaccinated but did not develop immunity) can become infected.

Measles is still common in many developing countries – particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. The overwhelming majority (more than 95%) of measles deaths occur in countries with low per capita incomes and weak health infrastructures.

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Measles outbreaks can be particularly deadly in countries experiencing or recovering from a natural disaster or conflict. Damage to health infrastructure and health services interrupts routine immunization, and overcrowding in residential camps greatly increases the risk of infection.

Measles in adults

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) serious complications are not only more common in young children, but also in adults over the age of 20. These complications can include things like pneumonia, encephalitis, and blindness.

Although it’s often associated with childhood illness, adults can get measles too.


Treatment and Prevention

All children diagnosed with measles should receive two doses of vitamin A supplements, given 24 hours apart. This treatment restores low vitamin A levels during measles that occur even in well-nourished children and can help prevent eye damage and blindness. Vitamin A supplements have also been shown to reduce the number of measles deaths.

No specific antiviral treatment exists for the measles virus.

Severe complications from measles can be reduced through supportive care that ensures good nutrition, adequate fluid intake and treatment of dehydration with WHO-recommended oral rehydration solution. This solution replaces fluids and other essential elements that are lost through diarrhoea or vomiting. Antibiotics should be prescribed to treat eye and ear infections, and pneumonia.

Getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent measles. Two doses of the measles vaccine are 97 percent Trusted Source effective at preventing measles infection.

There are two vaccines available — the MMR vaccine and the MMRV vaccine. The MMR vaccine is a three-in-one vaccination that can protect you from measles, mumps, and rubella. The MMRV vaccine protects against the same infections as the MMR vaccine and also includes protection against chickenpox.

Children can receive their first vaccination at 12 months, or sooner if traveling internationally, and their second dose between the ages of 4 and 6. Adults who have never received an immunization can request the vaccine from their doctor.

Vaccination isn’t just important for protecting you and your family. It’s also important for protecting people who can’t be vaccinated. When more people are vaccinated against a disease, it’s less likely to circulate within the population. This is called herd immunity.


Stay hygienic

Not everyone can receive measles vaccination. But there are other ways that you can help to prevent the spread of measles.

Practice good hand hygiene. Wash your hands before eating, after using the bathroom, and before touching your face, mouth, or nose.

Don’t share personal items with people who may be ill. This can include things like eating utensils, drinking glasses, and toothbrushes. Avoid coming into contact with people who are sick.

Of the estimated 19.2 million infants not vaccinated with at least one dose of measles vaccine through routine immunization in 2018, about 6.1 million were in 3 countries: India, Nigeria, and Pakistan.

India with Measles

India stood fourth among 194 countries in the number of measles cases registered between July 2018 and June 2019, according to the latest measles surveillance data released by the World Health Organization (WHO) in August 2019.

With 39,299 cases India bagged the fourth spot after Madagascar (150,976), Ukraine (84,394) and Philippines (45,847).  However, India had the lowest measles incidence rate per million in the top 10 countries — 29.68.

Children under the age of one get infected by the virus the most in India as they have the highest incidence rate of 76.4 per million population, according to WHO. Moreover, this is the same age bracket that has received the highest number of zero doses of measles vaccination between July 2018 and June 2019.

The second-highest rate of incidence occurs in children in the age group of 1-4 years. This age bracket had received second-highest number of zero doses of vaccination. The trend is almost similar for children between 5-9 years who have the third-highest incidence.

While India has increased its measles vaccination coverage, it remains far from achieving the WHO’s deadline of 95 per cent coverage until 2020, according to a paper authored by two pediatricians from Mumbai.


India has taken several initiatives to protect its children and has made significant progress in decreasing measles incidence and related mortality and morbidity.

World Health Organization’s response and recommendations

In 2010, the World Health Assembly established 3 milestones towards the future eradication of measles to be achieved by 2015: increase routine coverage with the first dose of measles-containing vaccine (MCV1) by more than 90% nationally and more than 80% in every district; reduce and maintain annual measles incidence to less than 5 cases per million; and reduce estimated measles mortality by more than 95% from the 2000 estimate. 

In 2012, the Health Assembly endorsed the Global Vaccine Action Plan, with the objective of eliminating measles in four WHO regions by 2015 and in five regions by 2020.

By 2018, the global push to improve vaccine coverage resulted in a 73% reduction in deaths. During 2000–  2018, with support from the Measles & Rubella Initiative and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, measles vaccination prevented an estimated   23.2 million deaths; most of the deaths averted were in the African region and in countries supported by the Gavi Alliance.

But without sustained attention, hard-fought gains can easily be lost. Where children are unvaccinated, outbreaks occur. Because of low coverage nationally or in pockets, multiple regions were hit with large measles outbreaks in 2018, causing many deaths. Based on current trends of measles vaccination coverage and incidence, the WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) concluded that measles elimination is greatly under threat, and the disease has resurged in a number of countries that had achieved or were close to achieving, elimination.

WHO continues to strengthen the global laboratory network to ensure timely diagnosis of measles and track the international spread of the measles viruses to allow a more coordinated country approach in targeting vaccination activities and reduce measles deaths from this vaccine-preventable disease.


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