What percentage of measles infections are fatal

Around 140,000 dead in 2018 : More people around the world are dying of measles

According to current estimates by the World Health Organization (WHO), around 140,000 people died in 2018 as a result of an infection with measles, mostly children under the age of five. That is 16,000 more than in the previous year.

Although more people died as a result of the virus infection in 2000, an estimated 535,000 people. But after interim success in containing the infectious disease, more cases have been reported again, as the number of measles infections has also increased worldwide: from around 7.6 million in 2017 to 9.8 million in 2018.

By mid-November 2019, most cases of infection were reported from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. So far, more than 5,000 people have died there with measles - more than twice as many as as a result of the ongoing Ebola outbreak in the country.

Measles symptoms include a rash on the lining of the mouth and the characteristic brownish-pink patches of skin. The infection temporarily weakens the immune system, making it easier for otitis media, bronchitis, pneumonia, or diarrhea. A particularly feared consequence is certain brain infections, which can be fatal.

Only a fraction of all cases are known

Since there is no compulsory notification in many countries, only a fraction of measles cases are known, according to the WHO. In Europe, there was a major outbreak in Ukraine, with nearly 57,000 reported cases. In Africa, in addition to the Congo, there are also major problems with measles in Liberia, Madagascar and Somalia. These five states ultimately account for almost half of all reported measles cases. In the USA too - which was once considered measles-free - the trend is increasing again, the country recorded more cases than it has in 25 years. Last week, at least 53 people died in a measles outbreak in the Polynesian island state of Samoa.

“The health systems are very weak in some countries,” says Marcus Bachmann, who recently worked for the organization “Doctors Without Borders” several times in the Congo. “There are often gaps in the supply chain, especially with the measles vaccine.” The measles vaccine has to be permanently refrigerated until it is administered, which is also a major challenge in many countries.

In the Congo in particular, the focus is on the fight against Ebola, which is also clearly noticeable financially. “The local people cannot understand this imbalance at all. They are very worried about measles because it often kills their children, ”said Bachmann. There is little reason for optimism for the coming year, said Bachmann. The typical problems in some countries - poor surveillance and slow checking of new cases, lack of vaccinations and fundamental uncertainty due to conflicts - could not be solved overnight.

"The fact that a child dies of a disease like measles, which can be prevented by vaccination, is frankly a sacrilege and a collective failure to protect the most vulnerable," said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director general. According to the organization, vaccination rates have remained constant worldwide over the past decade.

So far around 500 measles cases in Germany

The WHO estimates that 86 percent of children receive a first vaccination, but only around 70 percent then receive the recommended second dose. According to the WHO, a vaccination rate of 95 percent with two doses is necessary in every country to protect the population from the disease.

According to the Robert Koch Institute, 501 measles cases were counted in Germany from January to the end of November - in 2018 there were 528 cases in the same period. However, the numbers in Germany fluctuate a lot from year to year. Over the past ten years, they have ranged between 165 and 2,465 cases per year.

In November, the Bundestag passed a law on compulsory vaccination to provide greater protection against the highly contagious disease. It should come into force on March 1, 2020. Parents must then prove that their children have been vaccinated before they are admitted to daycare centers or schools. For children who are already going to daycare or school, proof must be submitted by July 31, 2021. Violations can result in a fine of up to 2500 euros. The vaccination obligation should also apply to teachers and staff in medical facilities. (dpa)

Now new: We give you 4 weeks of Tagesspiegel Plus! To home page