Measles surged to infect almost 870,000 people across the world in 2019, the worst figures in almost a quarter of a century as vaccination levels fell below critical levels, a report said on Thursday.
Millions of children are at risk of the disease again this year as restrictions imposed to contain the COVID-19 pandemic further disrupt immunisation programmes, the report co-led by the World Health Organization (WHO) said.
Measles is one of the most contagious known diseases – more so than COVID-19, Ebola, tuberculosis or flu.
More than 207,000 people died of it last year alone, the report found. With immunisation coverage below the critical 95% needed for community protection, infections rose in all WHO regions last year to the worst levels since 1996, it said.
“These data send a clear message that we are failing to protect children from measles in every region of the world,” the WHO’s Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said in a statement.