How Many People Have Died From Measles in 2019?

March 17, 2024

CDC and WHO’s Measles & Rubella Initiative report that more than 140,000 people worldwide have died from measles this year, up significantly from the previous record of about 41,000 deaths in 2018. The vast majority of those who die from measles are younger than 5 or live in low-income countries, which face problems with vaccine coverage due to misinformation spread by anti-vaccine groups and other sources.

The largest number of deaths in 2019 have come from outbreaks in nine countries. The outbreaks were caused by a combination of factors, including the re-emergence of measles in countries with high vaccine confidence and low vaccination rates, and a lack of access to healthcare services that could prevent or treat complications from measles.

A measles infection can lead to many complications, including ear infections (otitis media), pneumonia, diarrhea, and a brain disorder called encephalitis. Encephalitis may develop right after measles or it can happen months later, especially in people with weakened immune systems.

Measles is highly contagious and can be spread from person to person through the air or by direct contact. Vaccination is the best way to protect children from measles and other childhood diseases. The CDC reports that there was a modest increase in global vaccinations this year over last, but that 33 million kids still missed out on the first dose of their measles vaccine and 27 million didn’t get a second dose. A 95% vaccination rate is needed to keep communities protected from measles outbreaks.

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