Copyright infringement not intended
Context: The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) issued a warning about the possibility of a large-scale measles outbreak in London, which could result in tens of thousands of hospitalisations and several deaths. The agency said that despite an improvement in Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) vaccination rates, London is still vulnerable to a resurgence of the disease.
- According to data from UKHSA, there were 128 cases of measles reported in the UK between January 1 and June 30 this year, compared to 54 cases in the whole of 2022.
- 66% of total cases were detected in London.
- The agency said that measles can cause severe illness with an estimated 20-40% of children getting hospitalised.
Measles: A Global Health Threat
- Measles is a highly contagious viral infection that can cause serious complications and even death.
- According to the World Health Organization (WHO), measles killed more than 140,000 people worldwide in 2018, mostly children under the age of five.
- Despite the availability of a safe and effective vaccine, measles remains a major public health challenge in many regions of the world.
- Measles is caused by the measles virus that belongs to the paramyxovirus family. It spreads through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
- The virus can survive in the air and on surfaces for up to two hours, making it easy to transmit.
- A person can be infected by measles if they have not been vaccinated or have not had the disease before.
- Measles outbreaks can occur when there is low vaccination coverage, poor health infrastructure, conflict, displacement, or natural disasters.
- Some factors that contribute to low vaccination coverage include lack of access, affordability, awareness, or acceptance of the vaccine.
- Some people may also refuse vaccination due to religious or personal beliefs, misinformation, or mistrust.
- Measles symptoms usually appear 10 to 14 days after exposure to the virus.
- Some of the common symptoms of measles are:
- Fever, which can reach up to 40°C (104°F)
- Dry cough
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Inflamed eyes (conjunctivitis)
- Tiny white spots with bluish-white centres on a red background inside the mouth (Koplik's spots).
- A red, blotchy rash that starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body
Some of the possible complications of measles are:
- Ear infections, which can lead to hearing loss.
- Diarrhea and dehydration
- Pneumonia, which is the most common cause of death from measles.
- Encephalitis is a swelling of the brain that can cause seizures, brain damage, or death.
- Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE) is a rare but fatal disease of the central nervous system that can occur years after a measles infection.
- Miscarriage, premature birth, or low birth weight in pregnant women.
- Measles has a significant impact on individual and population health.
- It can weaken the immune system and make people more susceptible to other infections.
- It can disrupt routine health services and divert resources from other priority health issues.
- It can also affect social and economic development by causing school absenteeism, lost productivity, and increased healthcare costs.
- Inadequate funding and political commitment to immunization programs.
- Low demand and acceptance of vaccination among some communities.
- Weak surveillance and data systems to monitor and respond to outbreaks.
- Inequitable access and delivery of quality health services.
- The emergence of new variants of the virus that may evade immunity.
To prevent and control measles, there is a need for a coordinated and comprehensive approach that involves multiple stakeholders and sectors.
Steps need to be taken
- Increasing vaccination coverage and ensuring that every child receives two doses of measles vaccine.
- Strengthening health systems and improving access and quality of health services.
- Enhancing surveillance and data systems to detect and respond to outbreaks.
- Engaging communities and addressing their concerns and needs regarding vaccination.
- Advocating for more funding and political support for immunization programs.
- The best way to prevent measles is through vaccination. The measles vaccine is safe and effective and provides lifelong immunity. It is usually given as part of a combination vaccine that also protects against mumps and rubella (MMR). The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that all children receive two doses of the MMR vaccine, one at 9 to 15 months of age and another at 15 to 18 months or before starting school. Vaccination not only protects individuals from measles, but also helps prevent the spread of the virus to others who may be more vulnerable, such as infants, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems.
Q. What is the name of the vaccine that can prevent measles infection?
A) MMR vaccine
B) BCG vaccine
C) DTaP vaccine
D) IPV vaccine
Explanation: MMR vaccine protects against measles, mumps, and rubella (German measles). It is usually given in two doses, one at 12-15 months of age and another at 4-6 years of age.