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  • Global measles deaths jumped 40 per cent last year

    Author: AAP

Measles deaths globally spiked by more than 40 per cent last year and cases rose after vaccination levels dramatically dropped during the pandemic, leading health agencies say.

The highly infectious disease triggered epidemics in 37 countries last year, versus 22 countries in 2021.

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It sickened nine million children and killed 136,00, mostly in poorer countries, the World Health Organisation and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a new report.

The number of measles cases also rose by nearly 20 per cent after immunisation levels dropped to their lowest in 15 years during the pandemic, the two agencies said.

"The increase in measles outbreaks and deaths is staggering but unfortunately not unexpected given the declining vaccination rates we've seen in the past few years," the CDC's John Vertefeuille said in a statement.

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Two doses of the measles vaccine are highly protective against the disease.

Children in developing countries in Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America are at highest risk.

The WHO and CDC said that immunisation rates in poorer countries are about 66 per cent, "a rate that shows no recovery at all from the backsliding during the pandemic".

Measles is among the most infectious diseases known and spreads in the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

It is most common in children under the age of five.

Symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose and a distinctive rash.

Most deaths are due to complications like encephalitis, severe dehydration, serious breathing problems and pneumonia.

Complications are most likely in young children and adults over 30.

The disease has also surged in some wealthier countries in recent years.

United Kingdom health authorities warned in July that there was an extremely high risk of outbreaks in London, with some areas of the capital reporting that only 40 per cent of children were vaccinated.

Immunisation rates against measles in the UK have never fully recovered since spurious claims that linked the vaccine to autism were made by discredited UK doctor Andrew Wakefield more than two decades ago.

No scientific studies have ever confirmed the link but Wakefield's research led to millions of parents worldwide abandoning the jab.

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