A study has shown that 98 countries had an increase in the number of measles cases in 2018 compared to 2017. UNICEF warned that global cases of measles are surging to alarmingly high levels. This highly preventable but potentially deadly disease made a strong comeback in 2018.
The top 10 countries with the highest increase in Measles cases made up 74% of the total increase. Before traveling to the affected countries you may want to ensure you and your family have been vaccinated against Measles.
“Almost all of these cases are preventable, and yet children are getting infected even in places where there is simply no excuse,” said Fore, Executive Director for UNICEF. “Measles may be the disease, but, all too often, the real infection is misinformation, mistrust and complacency. We must do more to accurately inform every parent, to help us safely vaccinate every child.”
Top 10 Countries with the highest increase in Measles cases for 2018
1. Ukraine – 30338
2. Philippines – 13192
3. Brazil -10262
4. Yemen 6641
5. Venezuela – 4916
6. Serbia – 4355
7. Madagascar – 4307
8. Sudan – 3496
9. Thailand – 2758
10. France – 2269
Surprisingly on the list are Thailand and France which are two of the most popular travel destinations in the world. The two countries combined receive over 130 million visitors per year.
Executive Director for UNICEF stated: “This is a wake up call. We have a safe, effective and inexpensive vaccine against a highly contagious disease – a vaccine that has saved almost a million lives every year over the last two decades,”
Measles is highly contagious
Measles is more contagious than the flu, Ebola and tuberculosis. The virus can be contracted by someone up to two hours after the infected person has left the room. It spreads through the air infecting the respiratory tract. Measles can be fatal for malnourished children and babies too young to be vaccinated. Symptoms include dry cough, high fever, runny nose, red watery eyes, tiny white spots in the mouth followed by a red rash that can spread all over the body.
Why Measles made a comeback
Both developed and developing countries are being affected by the surge in Measles. In developed countries, the main reason for the increase in Measles cases has been vaccination hesitancy and complacency. For example, the number of cases in the United States is up 600% from 2017 to 2018 resulting in 791 cases.
In developing countries, poor health infrastructure, civil strife and low community awareness has lead to the increases.
How to protect yourself against Measles while traveling
The CDC recommends that all international travelers should get the MMR vaccine which protects against mumps, measles and rubella.
Consult your health care provider, local public health unit, or travel clinic two to three months before you travel.