Reported cases of measles rose by 300 per cent in the first three months of 2019 compared to the same period in 2018, shows preliminary global data by WHO.
This follows consecutive increases over the past two years.
Measles, a highly contagious airborne viral infection, can be entirely prevented through a two-dose vaccine. But vaccination rates have been slipping in recent months.
Global coverage with the first dose of measles vaccine has stalled at 85 percent for several years. This is still short of the 95 percent needed to prevent outbreaks, and leaves many people in many communities at risk. Second dose coverage, while increasing, stands at 67 percent.
“While this data is provisional and not yet complete, it indicates a clear trend. Many countries are in the midst of sizeable measles outbreaks, with all regions of the world experiencing sustained rises in cases,” WHO said in a statement.
Current outbreaks include the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Madagascar, Myanmar, Philippines, Sudan, Thailand and Ukraine, causing many deaths – mostly among young children.
Over recent months, spikes in case numbers have also occurred in countries with high overall vaccination coverage, including the United States of America as well as Israel, Thailand, and Tunisia. The agency noted that only about one in 10 actual measles cases are reported, meaning the early trends for 2019 likely underestimate the severity of the outbreaks.