Measles cases surge worldwide

10 December 2019

Article: 53/4905

According to new estimates jointly published by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 140,000 people died from measles in 2018 worldwide. These deaths occurred as measles cases surged globally, amidst devastating outbreaks in all regions.

The report finds that the countries with the highest incidence rate of the disease were the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Liberia, Madagascar, Somalia and Ukraine, and these five countries accounted for almost half of all measles cases worldwide.

Most deaths were among children under five years of age. Babies and very young children are at greatest risk from measles infections, with potential complications including pneumonia and encephalitis (a swelling of the brain), as well as the risk of lifelong disabilities such as permanent brain damage, blindness or hearing loss.

This year, the US reported its highest number of cases in 25 years, while four countries in Europe, Albania, Czechia, Greece and the UK, lost their measles elimination status in 2018 following protracted outbreaks of the disease. This happens if measles re-enters a country after it has been declared eliminated, and if transmission is sustained continuously in the country for more than a year.

More information on measles is available on the HPS website.

Source: WHO, 5 December 2019