According to the World Health Organization, worldwide instances of measles have tripled from January through March of 2019 compared to the same time frame in 2018, The Guardian reports. The outbreak arises during a period in which anti-vaccination campaigns and concerns surrounding them continue to intensify and garner international attention, especially over social media platforms.
The highly contagious disease is entirely preventable through a two-dose vaccine, but the WHO has expressed concern about declining global vaccination rates for quite some time.
“Preliminary global data shows that reported cases rose by 300% in the first three months of 2019, compared to the same period in 2018. This follows consecutive increases over the past two years,” the organization said in a statement.
The WHO added, “While this data is provisional and not yet complete, it indicates a clear trend. Many countries are in the midst of sizeable measles outbreaks, with all regions of the world experiencing sustained rises in cases."
Only about 10 percent of measles cases are actually reported, implying that the trends observed in 2019 so far likely underestimate the size and severity of the outbreaks.
In 2019 alone, there have been 112,163 cases of measles reported by 170 countries to the WHO. But at the same time last year, there were only 28,124 cases in 163 countries.
“Spikes in case numbers have also occurred in countries with high overall vaccination coverage, including the United States,” the WHO said. “The disease has spread fast among clusters of unvaccinated people.”
Last week, mayor of New York Bill de Blasio announced a public health emergency in areas of Brooklyn after measles spread in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community who are distrustful of modern technology and science. Over 300 cases were reported. The mayor's announcement implements a fine if children aren't vaccinated. Members of the ultra-Orthodox community claim that the declaration is unjust and have filed a lawsuit.