Letter: Why the coronavirus is leading to measles outbreaks worldwide
To the Editor:
A measles outbreak is on the rise in African countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo thanks to the coronavirus. However, the Democratic Republic of Congo is not the only suffering losses. Vaccination programs in 23 eastern countries like Ukraine, Madagascar, and the Philippines have also been put at a standstill. Most health care workers have been assigned to help with coronavirus efforts, leaving no help for vaccination programs. One-hundred million children have been affected thus far by these shutdowns and more than 6,500 children have already died from measles, with numbers that continue to rise.
Scientists define the infectiousness of a disease by using the “reproduction number,” or how many people, on average, could be infected with the virus if a single person were to fall ill and spread it to a population that has no immunity. The reproduction number for coronavirus falls somewhere between 2 and 3, while measles is between 12-18, making measles the most contagious known virus in the world.
Measles is not just a worry in the eastern hemisphere, it has just recently made a global impact as well. A surge in 2018 caused an estimated 10 million cases worldwide of measles including 140,000 deaths. This was a 58% increase in measles cases since 2016. High-income countries in places like the United States are mainly seeing outbreaks due to parents refusing to vaccinate their children. The U.S. has the means to provide enough vaccines to all citizens; however, what they do not have is the authority to vaccinate children without parental consent. If all citizens had received the vaccine, we would have seen significantly fewer cases throughout the country.
Many people have not stopped to look at other health repercussions caused by the pandemic. Without vaccination programs up and running for children to receive their immunizations, we will continue to see a rise in communicable disease outbreaks. Countries must find a way to continue providing measles vaccinations in order to slow the spread of the disease and prevent another pandemic.
Emma Hoffman – University of South Dakota, psychology minor