BARCELONA. — The number of measles cases around the world nearly doubled from 2022 to 2023, researchers say, presenting a challenge to efforts to achieve and maintain elimination status in many countries.

There were 171,153 cases globally in 2022, according to Dr. Patrick O’Connor of the World Health Organisation, who presented the research on Saturday at the ESCMID Global Congress in Barcelona. 

Provisional data shows 321,582 cases for 2023 and more than 94,000 so far in 2024, although the number is probably much higher.

Almost half of this year’s cases have been in WHO’s European Region, with the highest incidence in Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan and Yemen.

The US has had 128 measles cases reported in 20 jurisdictions this year, as of Friday, according to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

This is the highest number since 2019.

Measles was declared eliminated in the US in 2000, “meaning there is no measles spreading within the country and new cases are only found when someone contracts measles abroad and returns,” the CDC says. However, the rapid rise in cases this year poses a threat to that disease elimination status, the agency says.

Measles is a highly contagious airborne disease. 

It can cause serious health consequences or death, especially for young and unvaccinated children.

General symptoms may include fever, cough, runny nose, watery eyes and a rash of red spots. 

About 1 in 5 unvaccinated people in the US who get measles will be hospitalised, according to the CDC. 

About 1 in every 20 children with measles will develop pneumonia, and others may develop a dangerous swelling in the brain called encephalitis. 

Up to 3 of every 1,000 children who become infected with measles may die from respiratory and neurologic complications.

It can also lead to “immune amnesia,” a condition that raises people’s risk of other infections for weeks to years.

O’Connor said Saturday that measles vaccination has prevented an estimated 57 million deaths between 2000 and 2022.

In the US, the CDC that children get the first dose of the vaccine that protects against measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) between 12 and 15 months of age. 

Kids get a second shot between 4 and 6 years of age. — CNN.

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