Measles: worldwide return of infection generates alertness

A new wave of measles has been worrying health officials in several countries.

Preliminary WHO data show that, in the first 3 months of 2019, there was a 300% increase in measles cases . That would be indicative of the outbreaks that have been happening across the globe.

Countries that have declared an epidemic are: Kazakhstan, Ethiopia, Philippines, Georgia, Madagascar, Myanmar, Kyrgyzstan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Thailand and Ukraine.

The continents that recorded the most cases, compared to the same period last year, are:

  • Africa : 700% increase in the number of measles cases;
  • Europe : 300% increase in the number of measles cases;
  • Middle East : 100% increase in the number of measles cases.

The Americas and Asia-Pacific registered a 60% and 40% increase in the number of cases of the disease, respectively.

WHO recommends that the best way to prevent a pandemic (an outbreak of a disease that occurs on several continents or even worldwide) is through vaccination.

According to the WHO, the worldwide vaccination coverage is 85%. To avoid epidemics, 95% of the population should be vaccinated against measles.

For this reason, it is recommended that countries run immunization campaigns and motivate their inhabitants to get the vaccine.

Also read: Why should I vaccinate my child against HPV?

Cases in the Americas

In 2016, the entire American continent was declared measles-free by an International Committee of Experts.

But between 2018 and January this year, 12 countries in the Americas have already confirmed approximately 17,000 cases of the disease.

Venezuela is the country that recorded the most deaths from measles in a year. In total, 76 people died in 6,395 cases of the disease.

Some countries, like Canada, Chile, Uruguay, Colombia, Argentina and Mexico, have registered isolated cases of the disease but without fatal complications.

Today, the biggest concern is in the United States.

In 2019, measles was diagnosed in 19 states across the country, totaling 465 confirmed cases of the disease.

Earlier this week, New York City declared a “state of emergency” because of the strong measles outbreak. Since October, 285 cases of the disease have been confirmed in the city. Of this total, 246 cases were in children.

Residents who do not get the measles vaccine will be fined by the New York City government.

Mass vaccination in Europe

Since 2018, about 82,000 measles cases have been reported in 47 European countries. So far, 72 people have died from the disease.

The outbreak came after the greatest vaccination coverage of the 21st century. Between 2000 and 2017, 90% of the European continent was vaccinated.

And yet the outbreak worries authorities.

For WHO, this indicates that the vaccination campaign should be carried out, mainly, at the local level.

In other words, municipal governments (especially in distant cities) must also carry out the vaccination campaign and motivate citizens to receive two doses of the vaccine.

Red alert in Brazil

Recently, Brazil lost its measles free country certificate . In 2018, approximately 10,000 cases of the disease were diagnosed in the country. In 2019 alone, another 48 cases were confirmed and 12 people died.

Brazil offers the two doses of the measles vaccine by SUS. The vaccine can be applied to people between 6 months and 49 years of age.

You can take the vaccine in any basic health unit, according to the vaccination booklet. If in doubt, look for the nearest health facility.

Understand measles

Measles is a highly contagious infection, caused by the Morbillivirus virus Transmission occurs if an infected person comes into contact with other people through sneezing, coughing and saliva.

The only form of prevention against measles is the vaccine.

Among the main risk groups are children (under 2 years old), pregnant women, health workers and people with weakened immune systems.

In addition, people who work at airports, bus stations and locations close to borders are also more susceptible to developing complications of the disease, as they deal with foreigners.

People infected with the disease have skin rashes accompanied by small red spots on the entire body. In addition, sores and white spots may appear inside the mouth (on the gums and the inside of the cheeks).

Measles can still cause a high fever (over 38 ° C), diarrhea , cough, eye irritation, vomiting, nausea, nose and ear infections. In severe cases, it can cause seizures and brain damage.

Measles can be fatal. Therefore, in case of suspicion, seek medical attention as soon as possible.


Measles cases are happening all over the world. The only preventive form is the vaccine. So stay tuned and keep your vaccination book up to date!

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