WHO issues travel advisory after spurt in measles cases

Measles outbreak around the world, with the latest preliminary reports from the World Health Organisation (WHO) putting millions of people globally at risk, has prompted the health organisation to announce travel recommendations for areas that are on measles alert.

With almost thrice as many cases reported to date in 2019 as there were at this time last year, the WHO has directed that everyone, 6 months and older, should be protected prior to travel to an area where measles is circulating.

Anyone unsure of their vaccination status should consult their healthcare provider.

The WHO has recommended that travellers get vaccinated against measles at least 15 days prior to travel.

As per a release issued by the WHO for the first six months of 2019, reported measles cases were the highest for any year since 2006, with outbreaks straining health care systems, and leading to serious illness, disability, and deaths in many parts of the world.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Madagascar and Ukraine have reported the highest number of cases this year. However, cases have dramatically decreased in Madagascar as a result of nationwide emergency measles vaccine campaigns, highlighting how effective vaccination is in ending outbreaks and protecting health.

Also major outbreaks are ongoing in Angola, Cameroon, Chad, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Philippines, South Sudan, Sudan and Thailand.

“The largest outbreaks are in countries with low measles vaccination coverage, currently or in the past, which has left large numbers of people vulnerable to the disease. At the same time, protracted outbreaks are occurring even in countries with high national vaccination rates. This results from inequities in vaccine coverage, and gaps and disparities between communities, geographic areas, and among age-groups. When enough people who are not immune are exposed to measles, it can very quickly spread,’’ noted the WHO.

The United States has reported its highest measles case count in 25 years. In the WHO European region, there have been close to 90,000 cases reported for the first six months of this year: this exceeds those recorded for the whole of 2018 (84,462) – already the highest in this current decade.

Measles is almost entirely preventable with two doses of vaccine. High rates of vaccination coverage – 95% nationally and within communities – are needed to ensure that measles is unable to spread.

According to the WHO and UNICEF coverage data released in July 2019, 86% children have received the first dose of measles vaccine and 69% the second. This means that around 20 million children in 2018 received no measles vaccine through their routine vaccination programmes. Furthermore, 23 countries have yet to introduce the second measles vaccine dose into their national schedule.

The WHO is now urging everyone to ensure their measles vaccinations are up to date, with two doses needed to protect against the disease, and to check their vaccination status prior to travel.


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