WASHINGTON — Measles is a disease that is only found in humans so it could be completely wiped off the face of the earth. But despite a highly effective and safe vaccine, measles is making a comeback.
In the first three months of this year, the World Health Organization reports that the number of measles cases has tripled over what it was last year.
In Africa, the situation is worse. Africa saw a 700-percent increase compared to last year.
Dr. Anthony Fauci heads the research on infectious diseases at the National Institutes of Health. He says in Madagascar, the case is dire.
“Madagascar has almost 1,000 deaths and has tens of thousands of infections,” Fauci said.
The National Institutes of Health warns that a decline in measles vaccination is causing a preventable global resurgence of this often deadly disease, including in the U.S.
“One in ten children who get infected with measles will get an ear infection that could cause deafness. One-and-twenty would get pneumonia. One in a thousand would get brain swelling, what we call encephalitis, and one to three per thousand would die.To say that measles is a trivial disease is completely incorrect,” Fauci said.
Dr. Walter Orenstein at the Emory University Vaccine Center has spent his life working to end measles. He says the complications are worse in poor countries.
“You start off with children who are already at greater risk. They may be malnourished. They may have compromised immune systems. They may be underweight and may have no access to health care so measles is a big killer,” Orenstein said.
You have a 90 percent chance of getting measles if you haven’t been vaccinated and you come in contact with someone who has it. Dr. Rebecca Martin, heads the CDC’s center for global health. She is working to rid Africa of measles.
“It is very infectious. It will find everybody who is not protected against measles,” Martin said.
The solution is to get two doses of the measles vaccine. That may mean educating parents about both the disease and the vaccine.
Equally important is making vaccination a priority of health systems worldwide.