As the number of measles cases continued to soar, more than 140,000 people across the globe died from measles last year, according to a new report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.
Most deaths were among children younger than 5, according to WHO.
The number of deaths last year was an increase from the estimated 110,000 measles-related deaths that occurred in 2017, based on WHO data.
The new report, released on Thursday, was based on public health data from the WHO, CDC and the United Nations Children’s Fund. Even though the global numbers of measles cases and deaths have declined in two decades, there is more work needed before the measles viruses can be eliminated worldwide.
“I’m not so much surprised as I’m disappointed,” Dr. Robin Nandy, principal adviser and chief of immunization at UNICEF, said of the report’s findings.
Nandy added that the best way to prevent measles from spreading is to get vaccinated against the virus, but levels of vaccination coverage recently have stalled in “almost all” regions of the world, according to the report.
“We shouldn’t be in this position in 2019 when we have had a safe and inexpensive vaccine for decades,” he said. “We’re seeing outbreaks in very different contexts and different types of countries … irrespective of income level of country.”