Measles, polio, yellow fever… the resurgence of infectious diseases is worrying international health authorities

As the noose of Covid-19 seems to be loosening around the world – the death rate linked to the pandemic has been at its lowest since March 2020 – other diseases are making a resurgence. Among them, the most contagious of all, measles, is already worrying international authorities, as nearly 17,338 cases were reported worldwide in January and February 2022, compared with 9,665 in the first two months of 2021, a 79% increase in one year. Africa has been particularly hard hit, with a 400% increase in the first three months of 2022 compared to the same period in 2021, according to the Regional Office of the World Health Organization (WHO).

However, measles can be almost completely prevented with a two-dose vaccine that is more than 97% effective and lasts a lifetime in most people. Over the past twenty years, the WHO has estimated that the vaccine has prevented more than 30 million deaths worldwide, increasing from almost 1 million deaths in 2000 to more than 60,000 in 2020.

Since the reproduction rate of the disease, ie the number of people infected by an infected person, is very high (between 17 and 20), the vaccination rate must reach 95% of the population to prevent the virus from spreading. A major challenge in many regions. For the past year, the hardest-hit countries have been Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Ethiopia, where only 46% to 68% of the population had received a vaccine dose in 2020.

Signals that international bodies consider very worrying. “In addition to being a dangerous and life-threatening disease, measles is a red flag that highlights gaps in immunization coverage around the world — gaps that vulnerable children will suffer.”alarmed Catherine Russell, director-general of Unicef, the United Nations children’s fund which is a strong advocate for immunization, in a joint press release with WHO published on April 27.

catch-up campaigns

The Covid-19 pandemic has weakened many healthcare systems by monopolizing professionals and postponing care and prevention campaigns that were not prioritized. “We are now seeing the resurgence of deadly diseases like measles, and the consequences of these disruptions will be felt in terms of other diseases for several decades.”, emphasized Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. And to insist: “There is an urgent need to restart essential immunization services and launch catch-up campaigns so everyone has access to these life-saving vaccines. » Added to this is the lifting of barrier gestures in most countries that until then participated in blocking the transmission of a certain number of diseases alongside Covid-19.

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