Measles deaths are surging worldwide, prompted by a wave of infections among unvaccinated children, public health experts say.
Deaths from measles increased by 43% globally in 2022 compared to the year before, resulting from an 18% increase in measles cases, the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say in a new report published Thursday.
The estimated number of measles cases stands at 9 million and deaths at 136,000 for 2022, mostly among children, the report published in Friday's edition of the CDC publication Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
"The increase in measles outbreaks and deaths is staggering, but unfortunately, not unexpected given the declining vaccination rates we've seen in the past few years," John Vertefeuille, director of CDC's Global Immunization Division, said in a CDC news release. "Measles cases anywhere pose a risk to all countries and communities where people are under-vaccinated. Urgent, targeted efforts are critical to prevent measles disease and deaths."
In 2022, 37 countries experienced large or disruptive measles outbreaks, compared with 22 countries the year before, the report noted.
There were 26 African nations that experienced a measles outbreak in 2022, along with six in the Eastern Mediterranean, two in Southwest Asia and one in Europe.
Measles is preventable through a two-dose vaccination, but there were still 33 million children who missed a measles vaccine dose -- nearly 22 million missed their first dose and another 11 million missed their second.
The global vaccine coverage rate stands at 83% for the first dose and 74% for the second, well under the 95% two-dose coverage that creates herd immunity and protects communities from outbreaks.
Low-income countries continue to have the lowest vaccination rates, at 66%.
Of the 22 million children who missed their first dose of measles vaccine, more than half live in just 10 countries: Angola, Brazil, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Madagascar, Nigeria, Pakistan and Philippines.
"The lack of recovery in measles vaccine coverage in low-income countries following the pandemic is an alarm bell for action. Measles is called the inequity virus for good reason. It is the disease that will find and attack those who aren't protected," said Kate O'Brien, WHO director for Immunization, Vaccine and Biologicals. "Children everywhere have the right to be protected by the lifesaving measles vaccine, no matter where they live."
The World Health Organization has more about measles.
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