Measles cases skyrocket worldwide

Quebec is safe, but measles cases have skyrocketed around the world since the beginning of 2022. Millions of children, who have not yet received their vaccination against the infection, are at risk of becoming infected.

Posted at 6:00 am

Alice Girard Bosse

Alice Girard Bosse
Press

79%

Increase in the number of measles cases worldwide in the first two months of 2022 compared to the same period in 2021

Sources: World Health Organization and United Nations Children’s Fund

Worrying situation”

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PHOTO LYNSEY ADDARIO, NEW YORK TIMES FILES

A woman mourns the death of her son who succumbed to measles in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“It is extremely worrying,” says D.r Brian Ward, a professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at McGill University. “It is a very aggressive virus with a completely unacceptable mortality rate of up to 5% in poor countries. The hospitalization rate in young children can reach 50% to 75%”, indicates the doctor.

The five countries with the highest number of measles cases in the last 12 months, until April 2022

  • Nigeria (12,341 cases)
  • Somalia (9068 cases)
  • Yemen (3629 cases)
  • Afghanistan (3628 cases)
  • Ethiopia (3039 cases)

Source: World Health Organization

A highly contagious disease

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PHOTO SCHNEYDER MENDOZA, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE ARCHIVE

Venezuelans line up to vaccinate their children against measles in 2018.

Measles is one of the most contagious diseases. The infection usually begins with discharge from the nose and eyes, redness around the eyes, cough and fever, details the Dr Pavilion. Three to five days later, a rash in the form of a small spot is added. It starts on the face and neck, then spreads to the rest of the body.

almost perfect efficiency

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PHOTO DANIEL MIHAILESCU, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A young Romanian receives the measles vaccine in Bucharest in 2018.

However, there is a sure way to prevent measles: vaccination. With both doses, usually given before age 2, the vaccine is more than 95% effective, says Dr.r Pavilion. Before the vaccine was used, there were between 300,000 and 400,000 cases a year in Canada, according to data from the federal government. Today, only a few cases are recorded each year. However, the situation is less promising in some countries with lower vaccination coverage.

The COVID-19 pandemic in question

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PHOTO SCHNEYDER MENDOZA, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE ARCHIVE

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused the interruption of basic childhood immunization services in many countries.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused the interruption of basic childhood immunization services in many countries. “However, we are now seeing the resurgence of deadly diseases like measles, and the consequences of these disruptions will be felt for several decades with respect to other diseases,” said Dr.r Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization. “The watchword is to quickly return to the distribution of vaccines in an adequate way, because we cannot allow this virus to be transmitted quickly,” adds Benoit Barbeau, a virologist and professor in the department of biology at the University of Quebec in Montreal.

73 million

Number of children whose measles vaccination was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic

Sources: World Health Organization and United Nations Children’s Fund

And here in Quebec?

Since 2001, when there were no outbreaks, Quebec has recorded 0 to 4 cases of measles per year. Most of these are people who contracted the disease abroad. But the situation is not always so calm, as several outbreaks have affected the province in the last 50 years.

1989 : Largest epidemic since the introduction of the measles vaccination program in the 1970s. More than 10,000 people are affected, mostly young people of school age.

2007 : An outbreak affects 99 people in various regions of Quebec. Estrie and Montérégie record the highest number of cases.

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PHOTO IVANOH DEMERS, LA PRESSE ARCHIVE

In 2007, press conference of the Dr Horacio Arruda and the DD Jocelyne Sauvé, then Director of Public Health Protection and Director of Public Health of Montérégie, respectively, during the measles outbreaks

2011 : A large outbreak of measles affects 776 Quebecers in various regions of the province. Most of those infected are young people between 5 and 19 years old.

2015 : Between January and April there is an outbreak of measles in the Lanaudière region. A total of 159 people are infected. None were vaccinated.

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PHOTO EDOUARD PLANTE-FRÉCHETTE, LA PRESSE ARCHIVE

In 2015, an outbreak of measles affected members of a religious group, the Holy Spirit Mission, in the Lanaudière region.

Source: Quebec Ministry of Health and Social Services

Are we safe from a measles outbreak?

“When there is measles activity in other countries, it can happen here at any time,” says Dr.r Pavilion. Although outbreaks in Quebec rarely exceed a few thousand people due to high vaccination coverage in the province, many Quebecers who have never been vaccinated remain at risk. The doctor reminds us that it is never too late to receive the vaccine. “No matter what age, people can get vaccinated. It is even highly recommended”, he concludes.

Measles

Respiratory viral disease more contagious than the flu or tuberculosis

Infection

  • The virus is transmitted through the air, it is spread by coughing and sneezing.
  • The virus remains active and contagious in the air or on infected surfaces for up to two hours.

complications

  • Blindness
  • Encephalitis
  • Diarrhea
  • Pneumonia
  • Severe risk for the pregnant woman, can lead to miscarriage

Symptoms

Fever, nasal congestion, cough and sore throat, flushing throughout the body

Source: Agence France-Presse

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