More than 17,000 measles cases were reported worldwide in January and February 2022, compared to 9665 during the first two months of 2021, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
That is a 79% increase compared to the same time last year, and a worrying sign that measles and other highly contagious vaccine-preventable viruses are spreading around the world, WHO warned.
Health officials also warned that many children have no protection against measles because they missed routine immunizations.
In 2020, around 23 million children missed all of their basic childhood immunizations, the highest number since 2009 and 3.7 million more than in 2019.
As of April 2022, there have been 21 “large and disruptive measles outbreaks” reported in the past year alone, according to UNICEF. Most of the outbreaks occurred in countries with conflict and political instability, such as Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Somalia and Ukraine.
But since measles is one of the most highly-contagious viruses, it can quickly spread if left unchecked.
People who are infected with measles can spread it to others for 4 days before the rash appears. Measles virus can also live for up to 2 hours in the air after an infected person leaves the area.
People who are infected with the measles virus typically develop a fever and a distinctive rash that starts on the face and spreads over the whole body. The most serious complications include pneumonia, severe diarrhea, blindness, encephalitis (brain swelling) and death.