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Why more measles patients die of other infections

  • Category
    Science & Technology
  • Published
    12th Nov, 2019

The world is witnessing a revival of measles. Since 2018, there has been a 300 per cent increase in measles cases globally. Currently, it infects some seven million people while over 100,000 die.

Context

The world is witnessing a revival of measles. Since 2018, there has been a 300 per cent increase in measles cases globally. Currently, it infects some seven million people while over 100,000 die.

About

  • What worries the medical fraternity is the fact that a significant number of such deaths are due to secondary infection.
  • Many of the deaths attributable to the measles virus are caused by secondary infections because the virus infects and functionally impairs immune cells.
  • Findings on the measles virus’s impact on immunity of body are an urgent call for attention.
  • A blood test called VirScan on the antibody level of children before and after natural measles infection is been conducted and also conducted the same test in children vaccinated against measles.
  • Recovery of antibodies was detected after natural re-exposure to pathogens. Notably, these immune system effects were not observed in infants vaccinated against MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella), but were confirmed in measles-infected macaques
  • Whenever a pathogen attacks our body, the natural reaction is to create immunity to it. This remains inside us as a “memory”. Next time if that pathogen again attacks the body, this comes to the rescue.
  • The new study says that the measles virus is attacking this part of the human body’s immunity.
  • The virus, as the experiment found, is impairing the cells that store this memory or immunity information. This means in future we will not be able to fight many other infections / virus attacks.
  • This explains also the large number of deaths not just due to measles but also concurrent infections when measles virus attacks a child.
  • The WBCs had the capacity to fight measles but lost already available antibody generated from other infections. This made them susceptible to attacks from other infections, without the power to fight them.

Low vaccine coverage could be behind measles outbreaks: WHO

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) has blamed the measles outbreaks in countries around the world on declining vaccinations. According to its latest measles surveillance data, cases have risen by 300 per cent.
  • When the disease is almost entirely preventable through two doses of a safe and effective vaccine, the surveillance data shows that second dose coverage, while increasing, stands at 67 per cent.
  • The global coverage for the first dose of the vaccine has stalled at 85 per cent, which is still short of the 95 per cent needed to prevent outbreaks.
  • The UN health agency listed Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Madagascar, Myanmar, Philippines, Sudan, Thailand and Ukraine are currently facing outbreaks causing deaths, mostly among children.
  • The WHO called measles one of the world’s most contagious diseases.

Road to measles elimination is predictable, but can be rocky

  • The United States has seen more measles cases so far in 2019 than in any year since elimination was declared in 2000 meaning the disease is no longer endemic in the country, spreading constantly throughout the year.
  • Measles symptoms include high fever and a full-body rash, and the infection can be fatal or limit the body’s ability to fight off other infections.
  • Each of these outbreaks is individually difficult to predict.
  • In high-income countries it may trigger unpopular policies, such as mandatory vaccination and school closures, and significant health-system costs, as has been seen in the US.
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