Breaking News – there are reports of two new deaths in Italy, including a young patient who died of measles encephalitis in 2017 and a young adult with leukemia just last month. (see below)
Measles is a big killer.
According to the WHO, “In 2015, there were 134,200 measles deaths globally – about 367 deaths every day or 15 deaths every hour.”
But it wasn’t that long ago, in 1980, that measles was causing at least 2.6 million deaths a year. And just 17 years ago, in 2000, measles caused about 777,000 deaths worldwide.
Measles Deaths in the 21st Century
While some experts doubt if we will ever truly eradicate measles, like we have done for smallpox, a lot of progress is being made on reducing measles outbreaks and deaths thanks to routine and supplemental immunizations.
Tragically, measles still kills.
“For every 1,000 children who get measles, one or two will die from it.”
CDC – Complications of Measles
And it is not just in developing countries that don’t have access to vaccines or adequate levels of vitamin A or modern healthcare. It should also be obvious, when you look at the cases below, that you don’t have to wait for there to be a 1,000 people in an outbreak for there to be a death. It could be the first person in the outbreak or you might see three deaths between cases 3,000 to 4,000.
During the 2010 and 2011 outbreaks in Europe, after all, with about 30,000 cases of measles each year, there were at least 28 deaths. It’s worse now…
In the last few years, there are reports of at least 118 deaths in the measles outbreaks across Europe, including:
- the death of a 10-month-old unvaccinated child in Bulgaria (among just 163 cases)
- four deaths in France – a 16-year-old unvaccinated girl from Nice, who died in Marseille, a 32-year-old unvaccinated women in Poitiers, a 26-year-old with immune system problems who was probably infected by an unvaccinated relative, and a 16-year-old in Bordeaux, an immunosuppressed girl who had received a heart transplant when she was 2 years old. Three of the deaths have occurred in 2018 and there have been just 2,567 reported cases since November 2017.
- the death of a 37-year-old partially vaccinated women (the mother of 3 kids) in Essen, Germany (among about 866 cases)
- four deaths in Greece, where there have been 2,830 cases – including an 11-month-old unvaccinated infant, a 35-year old partially vaccinated mother, an unvaccinated 17-year-old, and a vaccinated, but immunosuppressed 18-year-old.
- at least twelve deaths in Italy (four in 2017 and six in 2018, among just 7,649 cases), including a 6-year-old boy with leukemia who reportedly caught measles from an unvaccinated sibling. The other deaths included an unvaccinated 9-year-old girl, a 16-month-old, a man with a compromised immune system, a 27-year-old woman, a 25-year-old woman, and a 10-month-old boy.
- two deaths in Kosovo, including a baby who died in a hospital in Pristina.
- the death of a 17-year-old girl who was not vaccinated in Portugal (among just 31 cases)
- 59 deaths in Romania, almost all unvaccinated children without preexisting conditions, including a three week old baby (among 14,142 cases since January 2016)
- at least 15 deaths in Serbia (among about 5,598 cases), including a 20-year-old unvaccinated man, a two year old boy and mother, an unvaccinated 4-year-old, and a previously healthy, unvaccinated 30 year old woman.
- one death in Spain
- the death of a vaccinated man who was being treated for leukemia in Switzerland (among just 69 cases)
- 17 deaths in Ukraine – eleven children and six adults, including an unvaccinated toddler who died at a children’s hospital in Odessa and a 10-month old (among about 24,000 cases, mostly unvaccinated children). This includes five deaths in 2017 – three children and two adults, among about 4,782 cases.
Unfortunately, measles cases continue to rise in most of these countries and many others…
The latest deaths – a young patient who died of measles encephalitis in 2017 and a young adult with leukemia just last month.
Outside of the EU, cases of measles and deaths include:
- 3,150 cases in Israel and 2 deaths in 2018
- 4,168 in the Philippines and 13 deaths in 2018
- 13,817 cases in the DR Congo with at least 178 deaths
- 2,246 cases in Ethiopia
- 1,891 cases in South Sudan with at least 16 deaths
- 1,527 cases in Guinea with at least 2 deaths
- 10 deaths of children in Bangladesh
- 40 deaths of infants in Indonesia
- 17,772 cases in Nigeria with at least 105 deaths
- 20 deaths and dozens of hospitalizations in Pakistan
- about 1,735 cases and 10 deaths in Brazil
- at least 97 deaths in Venezuela, including 53 deaths among Warao and Yanomami indigenous people
And although there haven’t been any deaths, there are also outbreaks in:
- Japan – 282 cases (2018)
- UK – 2171 cases (unconfirmed)
- Canada – 29 cases (2018)
- Australia – 91 cases (2019)
- Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru
Are you planning a trip to Europe any time soon? How about Indonesia or DR Congo, for which the CDC has also issued travel health notices? Even if you aren’t, as these outbreaks rise, it increases the chances that another traveler will bring measles home and expose someone in your community, starting an outbreak.
And while we deal with folks who simply don’t want to vaccinate and protect their kids, no one should lose sight of the fact that “In 2015, there were 134,200 measles deaths globally – about 367 deaths every day or 15 deaths every hour.”
What To Know About Measles Deaths
Kids are still dying of measles and the big take away should be that it doesn’t take thousands of cases for there to be a death and it can happen to a healthy child in a developed country with modern healthcare.
More Information About Measles Deaths
- Rapid risk assessment: Risk of measles transmission in the EU/EEA
- ECDC – Epidemiological update: Measles – monitoring European outbreaks
- PAHO 21 September 2018: Measles – Epidemiological Update
- Measles Deaths in the United States
- Massive measles outbreak in Romania: A warning to the US?
- Yep, measles is still a killing disease
- Measles Doesn’t Kill, Except When It Does
- A Death from Measles
- Late 19th-Century Maps Show Measles Mortality Before Vaccines
- When Anti-Vaccine Activists Falsely Dismiss Polio and Measles Harm
- The history of measles: A scourge for centuries
- CDC – What Would Happen If We Stopped Vaccinations?
- Measles Anywhere is a Result of Measles Everywhere
- Situatia deceselor datorate rujeolei, Romania 2016 2017
- UNICEF scaling up its emergency response in Bangladesh
- Democratic Republic of the Congo: Epidemics – Yellow Fever, Cholera & Measles Emergency Plan of Action (EPoA) Operation
Epidémie de rougeole en Nouvelle-Aquitaine : une femme de 32 ans décède
- Актуелна епидемиолошка ситуација малих богиња (морбила) у Републици Србији
- U.S. Embassy Manila issues health alert: Measles in the Philippines
- Serbia measles update: 33 percent of patients hospitalized
Updated November 7, 2018
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