Arm with measles rash Arm with measles rash

Global Measles threat continues to grow


Measles prevention: Importance of vaccination coverage and the role of public health practice

Measles is a highly contagious, vaccine-preventable disease that requires high population immunity to interrupt transmission. Between 2000 and 2022, an estimated 57 million deaths worldwide were averted thanks to measles vaccination efforts. Despite this success, millions of children missed their vaccinations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Notably, 37 countries reported significant measles outbreaks [1]. This article provides an overview of the current measles outbreaks and the right prevention measures.

Due to a declining vaccination coverage: Measles cases and deaths are increasing worldwide

Following a series of declines in measles vaccination coverage in recent years, there has been an 18% increase in measles cases and a 43% increase in deaths worldwide in 2022 (compared to 2021). This is according to a recent report by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which estimates the total number of measles cases at 9 million and deaths at 136,000 – mostly among children [2].

The threat of measles to children continues to escalate. In 2022, 37 countries experienced significant or disruptive outbreaks of measles, surpassing the 22 countries affected in 2021. Of the countries with outbreaks, 28 were in Africa, six in the eastern Mediterranean, two in south-east Asia and one in the Europe [2].

What are the implications for public health practice?

The CDC and the WHO are in favour of achieving a high vaccination rate, especially among children. In addition, all global health partners at different levels - global, regional, national and local - should mobilize resources in a concerted effort to prevent outbreaks. This is linked to the goal of establishing effective surveillance systems and improving outbreak response capacity, so that potential outbreaks can be rapidly identified and controlled [2].

The CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report highlights the important role of health care workers in measles prevention. Key recommendations include promoting timely vaccination, maintaining enhanced surveillance for potential cases, and implementing rapid response activities [1].

About the measles virus

Measles viruses are enveloped viruses from the family of Paramyxoviridae. Measles viruses are distributed worldwide and are of great importance as the causing pathogens of measles [3].

After a comparatively long incubation period of ten days on average, fever and rhinitis may be the first symptoms to appear. The pink-brownish spots, typical of measles, appear on the skin after four additional days at the latest. Measles can be potentially fatal, because of, among other things, brain inflammation associated with it. Infants in particular, but young adults too, have an increased risk of complications. Infected persons are contagious from before the appearance of the typical skin spots and then for about four more days. Learn more about the measles virus and mode of transmission here [3].

Hygiene measures can make an important contribution to protection against infections with measles viruses. A disinfectant with virucidal efficacy against enveloped viruses should be used for both hand and surface disinfection.


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Progress Toward Measles Elimination – Worldwide, 2000-222 (accessed on 24.01.2024)
  2. World Health Organization, Global measles threat continues to grow as another year passes with millions of children unvaccinated (accessed on 24.01.2024)
  3. Robert-Koch-Institute, RKI memorandum: measles. (accessed on 24.01.2024)

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