Measles cases nearly tripled globally during the first seven months of the year compared to the same period in 2018, the World Health Organization said Tuesday, amid growing concern over public resistance to the vaccine.
So far this year, 364,808 measles cases were reported around the world, compared to 129,239 cases during the first seven months a year earlier.
These numbers are “the highest (registered) since 2006,” WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier told reporters in Geneva.
The numbers are especially worrying since only about one in 10 actual measles cases are believed to be reported worldwide, according to WHO.
Measles, which is highly contagious, can be entirely prevented through a two-dose vaccine, but the World Health Organization (WHO) has in recent months sounded the alarm over slipping vaccination rates.
Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar and Ukraine registered the highest number of cases, WHO said.
In Madagascar, which registered around 127,500 cases during the first half of this year alone, numbers have meanwhile dropped considerably in recent months following an emergency national vaccination campaign, the UN health agency stressed.
Measles cases have soared worldwide, with the African region seeing a 900-percent jump in cases year-on-year, while cases rose 230 percent in the western Pacific.
Angola, Cameroon, Chad, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, the Philippines, Sudan, South Sudan and Thailand have all seen major outbreaks of the disease.
The United States has meanwhile registered 1,164 cases so far this year, compared to 372 for all of 2018 and the highest number on record in a quarter century.
And in the European region, nearly 90,000 cases have been registered this year — well above the 84,462 cases registered last year.
Measles — an airborne infection causing fever, coughing and rashes that can be deadly in rare cases — had been officially eliminated in many countries with advanced healthcare systems.
But the so-called anti-vax movement — driven by fraudulent claims linking the MMR vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella, and a risk of autism in children — has gained traction.
WHO pointed out that the reasons for people not being vaccinated vary significantly between communities and countries, with a lack of access to quality healthcare or vaccination services hindering some from getting the jabs, while others are led astray by “misinformation about vaccines, or low awareness about the need to vaccinate.”
The measles vaccine is a “safe and highly effective vaccine”, WHO stressed in a statement, urging “everyone to ensure their measles vaccinations are up to date.”
Trump aides desperately try to downplay ‘order’ to US companies to leave China
Donald Trump's top aides on Sunday downplayed the idea of US companies being forced to abandon China any time soon, as an edict from the president ordering businesses to start looking for alternatives has been met with skepticism.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House economics advisor Larry Kudlow took to the airwaves from France, where Trump is participating in the G7 summit, to smooth out tensions in the business community prompted by Trump's Friday tweet.
Trump said he has "no plan now" to bring US companies in line, and his aides quickly reinforced the message.
Trump sparks confusion at G7 before doubling down on China tariffs
President Donald Trump doubled down Sunday on his hard line against China after sowing confusion with statements that he might be willing to soften a trade war G7 partners fear threatens the world economy.
At the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, Trump announced a major trade deal with Japan and promised more of the same with Britain, once Brexit is done.
But the positives were overshadowed by a mix-up over his apparent expression of regret for the latest escalation in the US-China dispute.
"I have second thoughts about everything," he conceded to reporters when asked if he regretted his decision on Friday to ramp up tariffs on all Chinese imports, worth some $550 billion, in retaliation for Beijing's earlier hike of levies on US goods.
Persecuted Christians eye long-sought freedom in Sudan
Sudan's Christians suffered decades of persecution under the regime of Islamist general Omar al-Bashir. Now they hope his downfall will give the religious freedom they have long prayed for.
Deep within the maze of dusty alleys that honeycomb Omdurman, Khartoum's sprawling twin city, Yousef Zamgila's church is not visible from the street.
It is hidden in the courtyard of a friend's home and consists of a few iron benches, a pulpit and crosses hastily painted on pillars holding a corrugated roof.
"The previous centre got destroyed because we didn't have the right papers. They always refused... So we use the land of our neighbours," says the Lutheran reverend.