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Over half the world at risk of measles outbreaks, WHO warns

The rapid spread of the potentially fatal and once-eradicated disease is blamed partly on missed vaccinations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Over half the world at risk of measles outbreaks, WHO warns
Posted at 3:22 PM, Feb 21, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-21 17:22:10-05

Over half of the world will be at high or very high risk of measles outbreaks by the end of the year, the World Health Organization warned.

The rapid spread of the potentially fatal and once-eradicated disease is blamed partly on missed vaccinations during the COVID-19 pandemic, when regular immunizations were postponed, according to WHO and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

During a press conference on Tuesday, WHO noted a 79% increase in global measles cases from 2022, with more than 306,000 cases reported around the world last year. 

As of Feb. 15, a total of 20 measles cases were reported in Arizona, California, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York City, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia, according to the CDC.

The CDC said that most of these cases were seen among children and teenagers who had not been vaccinated against measles.

Last month, the agency issued a warning to health providers to be on the lookout for more cases.

SEE MORE: Report: At least 8,500 schools in US at risk of measles outbreaks

The stark warnings from WHO and the CDC come as an elementary school in Florida is dealing with a concerning measles outbreak. 

The Florida Department of Health in Broward County confirmed at least six cases at Manatee Bay Elementary School in Weston, which is just west of Fort Lauderdale. 

Health experts said outbreaks like this could just be the beginning. 

Measles is one of the most contagious diseases in the world, spread through the air or by contact with an infected person, WHO said

Symptoms usually begin 10–14 days after exposure to the virus and typically include a prominent rash on the face or upper neck up to 18 days after exposure that spreads to hands and feet. 

Early symptoms include a runny nose, cough, red and watery eyes and small white spots inside the cheeks. 

WHO said most deaths from measles are from complications related to the disease, which can include blindness, severe diarrhea, dehydration, ear infections, severe breathing problems that can turn into pneumonia and encephalitis, which is an infection that causes brain swelling and potentially brain damage.

Unvaccinated young children and pregnant women are at the highest risk of severe measles complications, according to WHO. 

There is no specific treatment for measles. 


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