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WHO is concerned about the rapid spread of measles
Following a trend of measles spread that has been declining for years, the World Health Organization (WHO) is now reporting an explosion in the number of cases. According to the WHO, the number of reported measles cases doubled in 2018 compared to the previous year, and even tripled in Europe.
As the WHO announced on Thursday, February 14 in Geneva, there were 229,000 measles cases reported last year, twice as many as in the previous year. However, the WHO estimates the actual number of cases at over two million, since only less than ten percent of all cases of illness are reported worldwide. The number of cases tripled in Europe, mainly due to an epidemic in Ukraine. In Germany, on the other hand, the number of illnesses decreased from 900 to 500 cases.
Measles are often downplayed
While in the past it was common for parents to intentionally put their children together at so-called measles parties in order to mutually infect the children, today most parents no longer want to take this risk. Because measles can be fatal. According to the WHO, at least 72 people died of measles in the European region in 2018. Most of the victims were children under the age of five.
Even if most measles diseases are mild, there is a risk of serious complications, especially in children under the age of five. According to the WHO, measles disease can lead to blindness, encephalitis, severe diarrhea, dehydration, ear infections or serious respiratory infections such as pneumonia. Children with insufficient vitamin A content, a weakened immune system or with poor nutrition or malnutrition are particularly at risk.
Measles is highly contagious
According to the WHO, measles is one of the most contagious infectious diseases in the world. The virus can be transmitted through coughing, sneezing, body fluids or through close personal contact with infected people. In addition, the virus remains active outside the host for up to two hours and can thus also be transmitted through contaminated surfaces. Infected people are contagious not only during, but also four days before the outbreak and up to four days after the disease has healed.
There is no effective treatment for measles
If an acute outbreak occurs, there is no antiviral treatment that can stop or alleviate the disease. "However, the risk of serious complications can be reduced by taking good care of the sick," wrote the WHO in a disease profile. The health organization recommends good nutrition, sufficient hydration and the use of electrolyte solutions. Antibiotics should be used if eye, ear or pneumonia occurs. "All children diagnosed with measles should receive two doses of vitamin A supplements every 24 hours," advises the WHO. This restores the low level during the illness and reduces the risk of permanent eye damage and blindness. In addition, the risk of death is reduced by 50 percent thanks to the vitamin A supplements. (vb)