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‘Measles killed 52,600, infected 1.8 million Africans in 2018’


No fewer than 52,600 Africans lost their lives with 1,759,000 others infected by measles in 2018. According to new estimates from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United States Centres for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC), the worst impacts of the scourge were recorded in sub-Saharan Africa where many children had persistently missed out on vaccination.

The report named the most hit nations to include Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Liberia, Madagascar, Somalia and Ukraine. The five countries accounted for almost half of all the cases worldwide during the period under review. It noted that globally, more than 140,000 people died from the disease as the deaths surged worldwide amid devastating outbreaks in all regions.

Region by region, WHO said Africa recorded 1,759,000 infections and 52,600 deaths; the Americas got 83,500 cases; the Eastern Mediterranean recorded 2,852,700 incidents and 49,000 deaths; European posted 861,800 cases and 200 deaths; Southeast Asia had 3,803,800 cases and 39,100 deaths; while the Western Pacific was afflicted with 408,400 cases and 1300 casualties.

However, medical experts and the global agency blamed the recent rise on poor routine immunisation especially in developing countries and growing vaccine rejection in Europe and the United States.The report submitted that most of the deaths occurred among children under five years and babies and very young children that are at greatest risk with potential complications, including pneumonia and encephalitis (a swelling of the brain) as well as lifelong disability – permanent brain damage, blindness or hearing loss.

Recently published evidence showed that contracting the virus could have long-term health impacts, having the potential of damaging the immune system’s memory for months or even years.

This ‘immune amnesia’ leaves survivors vulnerable to other potentially deadly diseases like influenza or severe diarrhoea. Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Faisal Shuaib, told The Guardian that the country had been able to reduce the number of measles cases and deaths through improved routine immunisation. He said with 100 per cent of the exercise, no child would die from the disease or other vaccine-preventable ailments, adding that vaccination was ongoing. “We are being proactive now and not reactive. We have deployed vaccines nationwide to prevent any ugly outbreak,” Shuaib stated.

In his remarks, WHO’s Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus, observed: “The fact that any child dies from a vaccine-preventable disease like measles is frankly an outrage and a collective failure to protect the world’s most vulnerable children. To save lives, we must ensure everyone can benefit from vaccines – which means investing in immunisation and quality health care as a right for all.”The organisation had in August 2019 disclosed that Africa recorded 900 per cent rise in infections within 12 months.


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Faisal ShuaibmeaslesWHO
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