Measles cases surged globally in 2017 due to gaps in vaccine coverage, health agencies say

(CNN)Measles cases around the world surged 31% from 2016 to 2017, according to a new report jointly published by the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Since 2016, measles incidence has increased globally and in five of the six WHO regions,” the report says, although this was in part because more countries reported on the virus.
The Western Pacific Region, which includes countries such as Australia and Japan, was the only region to report a decrease in cases from 2016 to 2017. It’s also the only region to achieve and sustain 95% or greater coverage of the first dose of the measles vaccine since 2006.
    Measles, a viral illness, can be prevented through two doses of a vaccine, and measles vaccination prevented an estimated 21.1 million deaths from 2000 to 2017, according to the report.
    Vaccine coverage increased globally from an estimated 72% to 85% from 2000 to 2017, according to the report, but that’s far short of the 95% needed to prevent outbreaks. Coverage for the first vaccine “has stagnated for nearly a decade,” the report said.
    Estimated coverage of the second dose of the measles vaccine increased globally from 15% in 2000 to 67% in 2017, the report said.
    As of July, endemic measles was re-established in Venezuela, leading to outbreaks in bordering countries; the region had been declared free of endemic measles in 2016.
    In 2017, the European Region declared “the reestablishment of endemic measles virus transmission in the Russian Federation and in Germany,” even though it had verified elimination in 37 other countries.
    “The measles resurgence in Europe has likely led to reestablished endemic measles in some EUR countries,” the report says.

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      Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, said in a statement, “The increase in measles cases is deeply concerning, but not surprising. Complacency about the disease and the spread of falsehoods about the vaccine in Europe, a collapsing health system in Venezuela and pockets of fragility and low immunization coverage in Africa are combining to bring about a global resurgence of measles after years of progress.
      “Existing strategies need to change: more effort needs to go into increasing routine immunization coverage and strengthening health systems. Otherwise we will continue chasing one outbreak after another.”

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      Venezuela’s Maduro stands by election turnout figures as opposition continues protests

      Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro remained defiant Wednesday night, saying a company that has alleged widespread voter fraud was bowing to the pressure of the gringos and the Brits, even as the opposition called for more protests.

      In broadcasted remarks, Maduro stood by the official count of 8 million-plus votes that were allegedly cast in Sundays election that devoted his ruling socialist party virtually unlimited power.

      He also extol an additional 2 million people would have voted if they hadnt been blocked by anti-government protesters.

      “That stupid guy, the president of Smartmatic, pressured to the neck by the gringos and the Brits, said there were 7.5 million, ” Maduro said in broadcasted statements. “I think there were 10 million Venezuelans who went out.”

      Maduro provided no proof to support his claim, but his remarks were received with resounding applause from about 500 people elected to the assembly.

      The president also announced a one-day delay in the assembly’s installation, saying it would convene on Friday instead of Thursday as schemed, in order to “organize it well in peace and tranquility.”

      Opposition leaders quickly called for Thursday marchings in five different parts of the nations capital of Caracas.