Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

18.37 5 Dec 2019


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Children under five accounted for most of the people who died from measles last year, according to new estimates.

Figures released by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and US Center for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) show 140,000 people died globally from the disease in 2018.

Currently, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is experiencing the world's largest epidemic.

Since the start of the year, there have been more than 250,000 suspected measles cases - including over 5,000 deaths, mostly among young children.

Other countries experiencing severe measles outbreak include Madagascar, Somalia and Ukraine.

According to the UN's children agency UNICEF, more than 19 million children worldwide last year hadn't received their first dose of the measles vaccine by their second birthday.

Speaking about the global figures, UNICEF executive director Henrietta Fore said entire communities are at risk when children go unvaccinated in significant numbers.

She said: “The unacceptable number of children killed last year by a wholly preventable disease is proof that measles anywhere is a threat to children everywhere.

"We see that even today in remote places like in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where measles has killed more than 4,500 children under the age of five so far this year; or in Samoa, where a rapidly spreading measles outbreak has left many children ill and unable to go to school.”

It comes after measles cases more than doubled in 2018 compared to the previous year.

Although final figures for this year are not available, the number of reported cases by mid-November (413,000) is estimated to be higher than all of last year (353,236).

In Ireland, meanwhile, 74 potential measles cases have been reported so far this year - with 42 cases confirmed to be the highly infectious disease.

Main image: File photo - a medical worker prepares a free measles vaccine during the Philippine Red Cross Measles Outbreak Vaccination Response at a slum area in Manila, the Philippines. Picture by: Rouelle Umali/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

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