Measles infections quadruple worldwide in past year, driven by anti-vaxxers

Doctor holds vaccine

Five parents filed a lawsuit with the New York State court against the city's health department on Monday, requesting a halt to emergency orders requiring the measles vaccine on the grounds that it goes against their religious beliefs.

Health officials on Monday said 555 measles cases have been confirmed so far this year, up from 465 as of a week ago.

Over the past year, the largest numbers have been in Ukraine, Madagascar and India, with each reporting more than 60,000 cases.

"This is a very significant outbreak", she says.

Last week, New York City officials declared a public health emergency and ordered mandatory measles vaccinations to halt the outbreak concentrated among ultra-Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn, putting in place the broadest vaccination order in the United States in almost three decades.

A sign warning people of measles in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community of Williamsburg, two days after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a public health emergency in parts of Brooklyn in response to a measles outbreak, is seen in New York, U.S., April 11, 2019.

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Global measles cases are rising for the third year in a row, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said, reporting that recorded cases between January and March were 300 per cent higher than in the same period last year.

The number of people sickened by the highly contagious, potentially deadly disease increased by 90 during the second week of April, with 20 states now having reported cases in 2019. Despite the ongoing outbreaks in communities across the United States, measles is still considered eliminated, which means it is not being continuously transmitted in this country. The most before the 2014 outbreak was 963 cases in 1994.

The number of measles cases worldwide almost quadrupled in the first quarter of 2019 to 112,163 against the same period previous year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Monday, citing provisional data. "Prior to the 1960's when the vaccine was introduced there were a couple million cases of measles and 400 to 500 deaths a year, thousands and thousands of hospitalizations and a thousand cases of encephalitis [inflammation of the brain]".

More American families are bringing measles home with them after traveling overseas, Cohn says. "The disease has spread fast among clusters of unvaccinated people", it added.

Measles can cause serious long-term harm, to individuals and to the economy. About 25 percent of infected children are hospitalized. This can lead to convulsions and leave a child deaf or with an intellectual disability.

Before the development of the measles vaccine in the 1960s, the USA recorded almost a half million cases each year, the CDC says. Officials there banned children not vaccinated against measles from public spaces last month.

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