Measles Becomes Endemic in Afghanistan

Measles cases continue increasing in India, Pakistan, Somalia
map of measles cases in afghanistan
Afghanistan (Precision Vaccinations News)

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently confirmed Afghanistan had joined a list of countries where the measles virus has become endemic.

‘Overall risk at the national level is assessed as very high,’ says the WHO.

The regional risk is considered moderate due to the movement of people into Tajikistan, Iran, and Pakistan. While at the global level, the measles risk is deemed low due to moderately high global measles-containing vaccine (MCV) coverage estimates. 

Following periods of lower measles transmission in 2019 and 2020, weekly notifications of suspected cases have increased in all Afghanistan provinces, with the highest weekly toll observed in the last four weeks in January 2022. 

The WHO  confirmed on February 10, 2022, the number of measles-related fatalities increased by 40% at the end of Jan. 2022.

During the same period, 97% of the fatalities registered were among children less than 5 years of age. 

‘Although the number of deaths is relatively low, the rapid rise in cases suggests that the trend of reported deaths will continue to increase sharply in the coming weeks,’ says the CDC.

The most affected provinces, with the highest number of reported confirmed and suspected cases, are Balkh, Ghazni, Helmand, Kandahar, Kabul, Paktika, and Paktya. 

The increasing number of reported measles cases in Afghanistan is due to a variety of complex factors that, on the one hand, have resulted in the low immunization coverage of both the first dose of measles-containing vaccine (MCV1) and second dose (MCV2),

In every province, two-dose measles vaccination coverage of at least 95% of the population is recommended to ensure immunity.

As of early February 2022, the U.S. CDC reported the top three countries battling measles outbreaks were India (4,259), Nigeria (4,114), and Somalia (2,908).

In the U.S., the CDC reported as of January 3, 2022, five jurisdictions had a total of 49 measles cases in 2021.

Measles is a potentially fatal but vaccine-preventable disease caused by the measles virus. Measles symptoms include fever, maculopapular rash, and at least one other symptom, cough, coryza, or conjunctivitis, although vaccinated individuals can have milder or even no symptoms.

There are two U.S. FDA Approved measles vaccines in 2022: Merck’s M-M-R-II, for use in people ages 12 months and older; and Proquad, with an integrated Varicella Virus Vaccine, which is Approved for children ages 1 through 12 years.

And the Priorix and Tresivac vaccines are authorized in various countries.

For additional measles vaccine information, please visit this webpage.

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