According to the WHO, 364,808 cases of measles were recorded worldwide between 1 January and 31 July 2019. An explosion due in particular, growing mistrust against vaccination.
Since 2006, the number of measles cases in the world has never been so spectacular. While between January and July 2018, 129 239 cases of this infectious disease were identified, 364 808 were recorded this year over the same period, alarmed the World Health Organization (WHO). That is a tripling of the cases.
At a press briefing on Tuesday 13 August in Geneva, the United Nations institution recalled that these are the "highest" figures ever recorded in the space of thirteen years.
An explosion of cases in Africa and the Eastern Pacific
It is in the countries where immunization coverage is the lowest that the number of cases has exploded. This is the case in Madagascar, where, according to the WHO, "the number of cases has, however, decreased considerably in recent months" following the national emergency vaccination campaigns against measles ".
Other countries are now beset by an outbreak of measles cases: Angola, Cameroon, Chad, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, the Philippines, South Sudan, Sudan or Thailand. According to WHO, the number of cases has increased tenfold in Africa, the Western Pacific has increased by 230% and the Eastern Mediterranean by 50% compared to the same period last year. However, Southeast Asia and the Americas region as a whole have each experienced a 15% decrease in cases.
Western countries are not spared from the explosion of measles cases. The United States is currently experiencing the highest number of cases in their territory for 25 years. In Europe, measles figures have doubled, with nearly 90,000 cases reported between January and July 2018, compared with 84,462 for the whole of 2018.
The magnitude of the "anti vax" movement
How to explain this phenomenal recrudescence of a disease for which there is yet a vaccine? For WHO, the factors are manifold, but one of its particular focuses is the magnitude of the "anti vax" movement, which is increasing global mistrust of vaccines, particularly in Western countries.
Measles is an extremely contagious disease for which there is currently no cure. WHO relies on many scientific studies to point out that the disease can be prevented by two doses of a "safe and highly effective" vaccine.
And to recall that the study that sowed doubt about the vaccine by claiming that it was likely to cause autism spectrum disorder in children was falsified. Confidential medical documents and interviews with witnesses made it clear that author Andrew Wakefield manipulated patient data to create the idea of a link between the vaccine and autism.
Mistrust of the vaccine may also have religious motives: in New York, measles caused two deaths after it was imported by unvaccinated travelers from Israel.
To avoid complications of the disease, WHO advises anyone over 6 months of age to be vaccinated against measles at least 15 days before traveling to an area where it travels. WHO estimates that less than one in ten cases are reported worldwide, which means that the scale of the epidemic is far greater than official statistics.