Measles cases found 79% globally last year, WHO says

The World Health Organization is sounding the alarm on the swift proliferation of measles globally, highlighting a 79% surge from 2022, with over 306,000 cases documented last year.

During a press briefing on Tuesday, the U.N. health agency indicated a lack of comprehensive data on measles-related fatalities for the previous year but anticipates a rise in deaths from the illness.

“In 2022, our models show a 43% increase in the number of deaths, surpassing 130,000 deaths attributed to measles,” stated WHO technical advisor Natasha Crowcroft.

Given the escalating case figures, Crowcroft remarked, “We expect to see a rise in fatalities in 2023 as well.”

The WHO’s warning coincides with a troubling uptick in measles instances in a school district in Florida, prompting heightened vigilance among the local population.

Last Friday, Broward County Public Schools disclosed a confirmed case at Manatee Bay Elementary School. The subsequent day, BCPS reported three additional cases, bringing the total to four.

Health specialists caution that these cases might mark just the onset. Despite measles being declared eradicated in the U.S. over two decades ago, fresh outbreaks are emerging. Dwindling vaccination rates undermine herd immunity, escalating the likelihood of outbreaks.

“The transmission pattern of this viral illness indicates a probable increase in the numbers of unvaccinated children and immunocompromised individuals,” remarked Dr. Pallavi Aneja, Program Director of Internal Medicine Residency at HCA FL Northwest and Westside Hospitals, to CBS News Miami.

Nationwide data also validates parental apprehensions.

An investigation by CBS News revealed that in at least 8,500 schools across 19 states, measles vaccination rates among kindergartners fall below the critical 95% threshold recommended by the CDC to safeguard communities against measles.

The decline in vaccination rates among school-age children has set off alarms among scientists and medical practitioners nationwide. In January, a cluster of measles cases emerged in Philadelphia, while 82 children in Ohio were diagnosed with measles in 2022.

“It’s concerning both on a personal level and at a population level. The presence of a larger number of unvaccinated individuals increases the likelihood of disease spread and the persistence of outbreaks,” expressed Matt Ferrari, biologist and infectious disease researcher at Penn State University, in a prior statement to CBS News.

Looking forward, 2024 poses significant challenges, according to the WHO’s Crowcroft.

“One of our methods for forecasting outbreaks and cases involves assessing the prevalence of unimmunized children. Data from WHO and the U.S. CDC indicates that more than half of all countries globally will face a high or very high risk of outbreaks by year’s end,” she elaborated.

–Contributions to this report were made by Stephen Stock, Aparna Zalani, Chris Hacker, Jose Sanchez, and staff from CBS Miami and CBS Philadelphia.

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