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Measles cases rose nearly four-fold in first quarter 2019: WHO

GENEVA: The number of measles cases worldwide nearly quadrupled in the first quarter of 2019 to 112,163 against the same period last year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Monday, citing provisional data.

Higher rates of the preventable contagious disease - which can kill children or leave them blind, deaf or brain-damaged - have been recorded in all regions, the United Nations agency said in a statement, appealing for better vaccination coverage.

Fresh outbreaks have hit the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Madagascar, Myanmar, the Philippines, Sudan, Thailand and Ukraine, "causing many deaths - mostly among young children", the WHO said.

It gave no figures for fatalities but noted it estimates that only one in 10 cases is reported globally.

"Over recent months, spikes in case numbers have also occurred in countries with high overall vaccination coverage, including the United States of America as well as Israel, Thailand, and Tunisia, as the disease has spread fast among clusters of unvaccinated people," the WHO statement said.

Increasing vaccination coverage maximises a population's protection, the WHO said. Global coverage with the first dose has "stalled" at 85 per cent, against 95 per cent needed to prevent outbreaks, while 25 countries still do not include a second dose in their national programmes, it said. - REUTERS

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