WHO alarmed at rising measles cases in Western Pacific region

WHO sounds alarm over rising measles cases in Western Pacific region
Photo credit: Kazinform

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday expressed alarm over a 255 percent increase in measles cases in 2023 from a year earlier in the Western Pacific Region due to gaps in vaccination coverage, disease surveillance, and travel of people from countries experiencing outbreaks, Xinhua reports.

The UN health agency said the region recorded 5,044 cases in 2023, higher than that in 2021 and 2022 combined, which totaled 2,502 cases.

The WHO warned of more potential measles cases this year, noting that 3.6 million children in the region missed their routine immunizations from 2020 to 2022, while ongoing measles outbreaks in the Philippines and persistent endemic measles transmission in Malaysia both pose a threat of measles resurgence in the region.

"Anytime there's measles in a community, it is a threat," said Saia Ma'u Piukala, WHO regional director for the Western Pacific, adding that countries have to maintain high coverage of measles vaccination and strong systems for picking up cases that get imported through international travel.

The measles virus is exceptionally contagious and spreads easily among susceptible individuals. To prevent outbreaks, at least 95 percent immunization coverage with 2 doses of measles-containing vaccine is needed for people, including those who missed routine vaccination in the past.

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