Measles Outbreak Surges in India and Worldwide, Urgent Vaccination Efforts Needed

Measles Outbreak Surges in India and Worldwide, Urgent Vaccination Efforts Needed
Measles Outbreak Surges in India and Worldwide, Urgent Vaccination Efforts Needed

Measles, a highly contagious viral disease, is reemerging as a serious concern in India and numerous countries worldwide. Following the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of measles cases is rapidly increasing, with alarming figures reported by the World Health Organization (WHO). India tops the list, with approximately 73,536 recorded cases, closely followed by Yemen and Pakistan.

Prior to the introduction of the measles vaccine in 1963, major epidemics of measles occurred every two to three years, resulting in an estimated 2.6 million deaths annually. Despite the availability of a safe and cost-effective vaccine, the disease continues to claim lives, with an estimated 128,000 deaths attributed to measles in 2021. Tragically, a majority of the victims are children under the age of 5.

Efforts to combat global measles outbreaks are led by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, collaborating with international partners and ministries of health. Their collective goal is to prevent, detect, and halt the spread of measles globally.

Measles, also known as Rubella, is an airborne disease caused by a highly contagious virus. It manifests through symptoms that typically develop 8 to 12 days after exposure and persist for 10 to 14 days. The disease presents with a distinctive red, blotchy rash, starting on the face and behind the ears before spreading to the chest, back, and ultimately, the feet.

Common symptoms of measles include a high fever, fatigue, a barking cough, red or bloodshot eyes, a runny nose, and a rash that begins at the head and gradually extends downward. Additional symptoms may include a sore throat, white spots in the mouth, muscle pain, and sensitivity to light.

Measles is primarily transmitted through contaminated droplets in the air, expelled during coughing, sneezing, or talking. It can also spread through sharing drinks or food with infected individuals, as well as through physical contact such as handshakes, holding hands, or hugging. Furthermore, measles can be transmitted from pregnant women to their babies. The incubation period for measles is typically 6 to 21 days.

Non-immune individuals are susceptible to measles, with unvaccinated young children and pregnant women at a higher risk of severe complications. Unfortunately, the majority of measles-related deaths occur in countries with low per capita incomes or limited healthcare infrastructure, making it challenging to reach all children with immunization.

Disrupted healthcare infrastructure due to natural disasters or conflicts further exacerbates the risk of infection, as routine immunization efforts are impeded. Overcrowding in residential camps also contributes to the increased transmission of the virus.

To confirm a measles diagnosis, healthcare providers may order laboratory tests, including blood, nose and throat secretions, and urine samples. Currently, no cure exists for measles, and the virus typically runs its course over a period of 10 to 14 days.

Patients can undertake several measures to alleviate symptoms, such as taking acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain or fever, getting ample rest, staying hydrated, gargling with salt water, and avoiding harsh light. However, it is crucial to consult healthcare providers before administering aspirin to children due to the risk of Reye’s syndrome.

Measles complications can be severe and include diarrhea, ear infections, pneumonia, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) leading to seizures, hearing loss, learning disabilities, and, in severe cases, death.

Prevention is the most effective strategy against measles, primarily through vaccination. The Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) vaccine is administered to children in two doses, typically around 12 to 15 months and 4 to 5 years of age. The Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Varicella (MMRV) vaccine is available for children aged 12 months to 12 years, with the second dose administered approximately three months after the first.

Pregnant women should refrain from receiving the measles vaccine, and individuals with immune system diseases or previous allergic reactions to the vaccine should consult healthcare providers before vaccination.

To mitigate the spread of measles, it is crucial for people working in healthcare centers to wear protective equipment, such as masks and gloves, and practice proper hand hygiene before and after glove usage.

By prioritizing widespread vaccination efforts and implementing preventive measures, the global community can effectively combat the resurgence of measles. Together, we can safeguard the health and well-being of communities worldwide.