Measles, because the disease returns to worry

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Measles cases reported globally are increased by 79% in the first two months of 2022: this is the alarm raised by the WHO and UNICEF. In fact, 17,338 measles cases were recorded between January and February 2022, compared to 9,665 recorded in the same period of 2021.

“As of April 2022, agencies have recorded 21 major and disruptive measles outbreaks around the world in the past 12 months,” the joint note reads. of UNICEF and WHO – Most measles cases have been reported in Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean region. The figures are probably higheras the pandemic has disrupted surveillance systems globally, with potential underestimation ”.

Originally there would be the heavy impact that the health emergency has had on immunizations routine: it is estimated that in 2020, 23 million children have missed basic vaccinations.

“The pandemic has had a direct and an indirect impact on vaccination coverage – he explained Massimo Farneti, former director of the AUSL Materno Infantile Unit of Romagna, who spoke at the Webinar organized byCultural Association of Pediatricians (ACP) to investigate the issue of anti-Covid vaccinations in pediatric age – The direct effect was linked to the fact that healthcare workers were affected by Covid and this generated a problem of maintaining vaccination services. At the same time, children too, especially at the end of 2021, were affected by the infection and therefore postponed part of the vaccinations “.

All this was then added the indirect effect of the pandemic: closures and restrictions but also fear of contagion have in fact severely limited access to immunization services.

“In the short period however the restrictions and the use of masks have significantly influenced the circulation of viruses transmitted by air – explains Dr. Farneti – there was an 80% decrease in pneumococcal infection cases but also a 75% decrease of measles cases ”.

The negative effects of the health emergency on the distribution of vaccines on the other hand, they were evident in the long term and affected not only the poorest countries. In fact, a WHO survey found that, despite progress compared to 2020, more than a third of countries still report interruptions to their immunization services.

«As pointed out by the WHO, the global risk today is that of a perfect storm – explains Farneti – the gaps in vaccination coveragejoined to the renterprise of social life and the lowering of cautionssuch as the use of masks, may involve the resurgence of infectious diseases just like measles “.

To worry, in Europe, it is above all the health situation of Ukraine made even more serious by the ongoing war. “We must consider that the vast majority of measles cases at European level occur in Russia and even more so in Ukraine – underlines Farneti – which has had the highest measles incidence rates”.

«In Ukraine, the 2019 measles recovery campaign was halted due to the pandemic from COVID-19 – reads the UNICEF and WHO note – e later due to the war. Routine and recovery campaigns are therefore needed wherever access is possible to help ensure there are no repeat outbreaks as in 2017-2019, when there were over 115,000 measles cases and 41 deaths in the country, the highest incidence in Europe “.

What is the vaccination situation in Italy today?
“Analyzing the three-year period 2018-2020 we note that in Italy, access to vaccinations decreased by only a few percentage points – Farneti points out – services have held up well. A significant drop was detected only in the HPV vaccination administered to twelve-year-olds and increased from 58% in 2019 to 30% in 2020 “.

In our country, therefore, at the moment there would be no risk of a resurgence of measles …
«For now we can say no – says Farneti – we have vaccination coverage of 92%, a good figure, all in all, if we consider that the ceiling that would allow us to be really calm is 95%. However, it must be said that there are also significant differences between regions. There are areas, such as the province of Bolzano, which have very low vaccination coverage ».

Why is measles so scary compared to other infectious diseases?
“The measles it can lead to a number of complications which are not negligible – concludes Farneti – we are talking about about one encephalitis every thousand cases of measles, with consequences that can also cause death. The majority of children become seriously ill but not fatal, however we must consider that in some of them the measles, on the other hand, causes encephalitis which is very serious and which is not linked to individual risk factors. In adulthood, then, the disease is even more risky ».

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The pandemic has made us rediscover the value of health: an identikit of post-Covid Italians

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Source: Vanity Fair

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