The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a warning over the rising number of measles cases, especially in Europe.
According to data collected from 41 WHO member countries in Europe, the number of measles cases rose from 941 in 2022 to 42,200 in 2023, a nearly 45-fold increase. In December 2023 alone, there were more than 200,000 hospitalizations and at least 5 deaths in the European region, according to WHO data.
The UK announced that more than 4.3 million children under the age of 16 are vulnerable to measles and urged parents to get their children vaccinated against measles.
In the United States, measles cases were reported in at least 9 different states in the first month of 2024.
Even in 1998, countries like Canada, which had eliminated measles cases with widespread vaccination campaigns, have recently seen new cases, especially due to international air transportation.
Globally, the numbers are much more critical. In 2022, nearly 22 million children did not receive at least one measles vaccination, with a total of 9 million known measles cases and 136,000 reported deaths. In 2021, measles caused 128,000 deaths worldwide, the majority of which were unvaccinated children under 5.
Worldwide, the percentage of children who received at least one dose of measles vaccine before the age of 1 year was 85%, the lowest since 2008. These rates are also far from the rates required for community immunization.
This increase in measles cases is attributed to the disruption of health services due to the COVID-19 pandemic and misinformation about vaccination.
WHO reminded again that vaccination is the best way to protect against measles and prevent its spread and stated that countries should improve their health policies in this direction and that individuals to pay attention to vaccination.
What is Measles?
Measles is a rash-causing disease by the measles virus (MeV). This virus primarily affects the respiratory tract and spreads throughout the body.
The measles virus is one of the most contagious airborne diseases. It is transmitted by inhaling water droplets that become airborne when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. The virus remains active in the air or on a contaminated surface and remains infectious for two hours. A person carrying the measles virus can infect 9 out of 10 unvaccinated people around them up to 4 days before the appearance of the red rash, the most prominent symptom of the disease.
Symptoms of Measles And Risk Groups
Symptoms of measles usually appear 7-14 days after infection with the virus.
Early symptoms include:
- Runny nose
- Red and watery eyes
- White small spots on the inside of the cheeks called Koplik spots.
The most distinctive symptom of measles is a red rash that appears 7-18 days after infection, primarily on the face and upper neck, and usually disappears after 5-6 days.
Most deaths from measles are due to complications.
These complications include:
- Encephalitis (inflammation of the brain)
- Severe fluid loss due to diarrhea
- Breathing difficulties caused by diseases such as tuberculosis.
The most common risk groups for complications are unvaccinated children under 5 years of age, especially those with malnutrition and vitamin A deficiency, adults over 30 years of age, pregnant women, and patients with weakened immune systems due to diseases such as HIV.
The most reliable way to prevent measles is immunization by the measles vaccine. This safe, cheap, and accessible vaccine, which has been used for nearly 60 years, prevented 56 million deaths between 2000 and 2021.
The measles vaccine can be given alone or in combination with rubella, mumps, and chickenpox vaccines.
For full immunity, 2 doses of measles vaccine are required. The first dose is usually given at 9 months in countries where measles is common, and between 12 and 15 months in other countries. The second dose is usually given after 15-18 months. Measles vaccine provides 93% protection in one dose and 97% protection in two doses.
Treatment of Measles
There is no direct treatment for measles. Treatments are aimed at improving symptoms and preventing complications. It is recommended to drink plenty of water and follow a balanced diet during the illness. In cases such as tuberculosis, and ear and eye infections, antibiotic treatment can be started by doctors. Vitamin A supplements are recommended for all children and adults with measles to reduce the risk of permanent eye damage and blindness with a doctor’s supervision.
Authorities remind people that to minimize the risk of transmission, in addition to individual vaccination, personal hygiene, wearing a mask in crowded environments and case of symptoms, and paying attention to distance is important.
In this disease where early detection is crucial to stop transmission, real-time PCR kits such as Bosphore Measles Detection Kit v1 are very useful in terms of speed, efficiency, and convenience.