Progress in combating measles in Europe has fallen significantly. Two weeks after the country's eradication, the World Health Organization UK has removed measles status this week. The fate of Britain could be a harbinger of what will happen to the United States in the midst of an angry anti-vaccination movement.
Measles are a highly contagious disease that can only spread between humans (as opposed to hiding in other animals)). So if you can cut through the transmission chain in a particular area, mainly due to high vaccination rates, you can completely prevent the emergence of the virus ̵
In 2017, the WHO decided that the UK had eliminated the virus within its limits, based on the low number of reported cases from 2014 to 2016 and a high overall vaccination coverage. These rare cases were considered abducted by people traveling from other countries where measles are still prevalent. Even if these cases did infect local people, herd immunity would probably prevent outbreaks from getting out of hand.
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In 2018, however, there was a dramatic increase in the number of confirmed measles cases – out of 284 cases in England and Wales the year before, the British government had 991 cases. In the first quarter of 2019 alone, there were more than 200 confirmed cases. In addition, the same measles strain was routinely discovered in 2017 and 2018, suggesting that the virus has survived in the country.
These developments led WHO to revoke the country's measles. free status.
Britain's stumble reflects a sharp decline in the fight against measles spread in Europe and elsewhere. In January 2017, fewer than 2,000 confirmed or suspected cases were documented in the WHO European Region, which includes 57 countries. By January 2019, however, this number had risen to nearly 20,000.
The United States did not fare so badly in comparison, although the situation quickly gets into trouble. In 2018, there were over 350 cases, more than double in 2017. By August 15, more than 1,200 cases were reported in 30 states this year. The number is the highest recorded since the eradication of measles in the US in 2000, and the highest since 1992.
Although no measles deaths have been reported so far, over 100 people have been hospitalized, many of them seriously Complications like pneumonia or brain swelling.
It could get worse. There are six persistent outbreaks in four states – New York, California, Washington and Texas – as well as 21 new cases reported just last week. It is therefore not excluded that measles in the US regain their footing, as the CDC warns.
The majority of the cases behind this worldwide resurgence occurred among the uninoculated. Overall, vaccination rates for children in the UK and US remain high, but there are many communities in those countries where vaccination rates have fallen below the level required for herd immunity. In many of these communities, propaganda against vaccinations has become widespread.
The measles vaccine is also available in two doses, and people who only get the first have a higher risk of contracting the disease. In the UK, the rate of those receiving the second dose is lower than it should be. According to the UK government, only 87.4 percent of eligible children received the second dose – less than the WHO recommended 95 percent threshold.