GENEVA — The World Health Organization (WHO) says that measles outbreaks and deaths are surging globally, putting years of progress made in reducing the killer disease at risk. The WHO is calling for urgent action to stop the spread of the highly contagious but fully preventable disease.
State Rep. Paul Harris R-Vancouver, center, talks to reporters, Feb. 8, 2019, following a public hearing at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash., on a bill that would remove parents' ability to to opt school-age children out of the combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine.
The WHO says a safe, effective vaccine, which has been around for 50 years, has protected millions of children. But WHO Director of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals Katherine O’Brien says progress is at risk because of the failure to vaccinate many children in all regions of the world.
“Measles as a virus is one of the most contagious infections that there is. For every case of measles that occurs in a setting where people are not immune, nine to 10 additional cases will occur simply because of exposure to that case,” she said.
O’Brien notes measles is spread by respiratory droplets that can live on surfaces for hours. Therefore, it is not necessary to have direct contact with an infected person to get sick.
The WHO says 229,000 cases of measles were reported worldwide last year. But it says the number of reported cases represents less than 10 percent of actual cases. So, millions of cases are occurring.
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