World now facing measles ‘epidemic’ warns WHO – key signs of the ‘dangerous’ disease

Measles: UNICEF warns Coronavirus could bring resurgence

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Case rates of measles are far higher than they should be for this time of the year, official figures show. The rise is being ascribed to the drop in vaccination rates during the COVID-19 pandemic. In light of the concerning situation, the World Health Organisation (WHO) urged parents to get their children vaccinated against the highly infectious disease.

Doctor David Nabarro, the WHO’s special envoy for COVID-19, recently told Sky News: “We’ve got really good vaccination programmes all over Europe to keep kids safe and one of them is the vaccination programme against measles, but it’s been slowed down because Covid has really taken up so much of healthcare. And so we’ve got an awful lot of people who have missed out on measles vaccination – 73 million throughout the world.

“And that’s meant that this year, in the first few months, there have been 17,000 cases of measles globally, whereas in the first two months of the previous years, it’s usually been lower – 10,000 or less. So yes, we’ve got a global measles epidemic, and that worries us because measles can be a very dangerous disease.

“We’ve just got to get the vaccinations working again and that’s part of getting health services working again as Covid settles into a more regular position in our lives. A lot of folk have actually thought to themselves: ‘well, with all this fuss and bother about Covid, perhaps we won’t take our kids to be immunised, and any way it’s quite difficult because doctor surgeries have been using different working arrangements’.

“My main request to everybody – please get your child vaccinated, please talk to the local nurse or doctor about vaccination options. It really matters. It’s so important. And with measles, the more people who get vaccinated, the more likely we are to get the whole measles outbreaks under control.”

What are the main signs of measles?

The NHS says: “Measles usually starts with cold-like symptoms, followed by a rash a few days later. Some people may also get small spots in their mouth.”

The first symptoms of measles include:

  • A high temperature
  • A runny or blocked nose
  • Sneezing
  • A cough
  • Red, sore, watery eyes.

According to the NHS, small white spots may appear inside the cheeks and on the back of the lips a few days later. These spots usually last a few days.

“A rash usually appears a few days after the cold-like symptoms.”

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How serious is measles?

Measles can be serious so it’s vital to get vaccinated to ward off the threat.

According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children younger than five years of age and adults older than 20 years of age are more likely to suffer from complications.

“Common complications are ear infections and diarrhoea. Serious complications include pneumonia and encephalitis,” warns the CDC.

Measles can be serious in all age groups. However, the CDC notes, there are several groups that are more likely to suffer from measles complications.

These include:

  • Children younger than five years of age
  • Adults older than 20 years of age
  • Pregnant women
  • People with compromised immune systems, such as from leukaemia or HIV infection.

Getting vaccinated

The MMR vaccine is a combined vaccination (in a single injection) that protects against three diseases: measles, mumps and rubella (German measles).

In the UK, the MMR vaccine is offered to all children as part of the NHS childhood immunisation programme.

If you didn’t have the MMR vaccine when you were a baby, you can have it when you’re older.

“Before the MMR vaccine was introduced in 1988, these diseases were extremely common,” explains Bupa.

“It’s now rare for children to develop them although outbreaks happen when the number of people having the vaccine drops.”

The health body continues: “If your child doesn’t have the vaccine, it puts them at much greater risk of developing measles, mumps and rubella.

“Although most people recover from these diseases without any long-term effects, each one can have some serious consequences, and can even be fatal.”

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