WHO Reports 79% Increase in Measles Cases Worldwide

By   |  February 22, 2024

By Robin Foster HealthDay Reporter  |  Copyright © 2024 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 21, 2024 (HealthDay News) -- Measles cases around the globe have climbed 79%, with over 300,000 cases reported last year, World Health Organization officials said Tuesday.

The U.N. health agency said it did not yet have a tally for measles deaths in 2023, but it expects that number will also rise.

"In 2022, the number of deaths increased by 43%, according to our models, to more than 130,000 deaths occurring from measles," Natasha Crowcroft, WHO's technical adviser on measles and rubella, said during a news conference.

"We would anticipate an increase in deaths in 2023 as well," Crowcroft added.

The WHO announcement came as a south Florida school district reported several cases of the measles. On Friday, Broward County Public Schools announced one confirmed case at Manatee Bay Elementary School, but that number jumped to four overnight, CBS News reported.

Health experts say outbreaks like that could soon become more common. Despite the fact that measles was declared eradicated in the United States more than two decades ago, declining vaccination rates are fueling new outbreaks and jeopardizing herd immunity in this country, CBS News reported.

"The way this viral illness spreads, we foresee that the number of unvaccinated children, the immune-compromised, we will start to see an increase in those numbers definitely," Dr. Pallavi Aneja, program director of Internal Medicine Residency at HCA FL Northwest and Westside Hospitals, told CBS News.

Looking ahead, 2024 is going to be "very challenging," Crowcroft added. 

"One of the ways we predict what's going to happen in terms of outbreaks and cases is looking at the distribution of unimmunized children," she said during the Tuesday media briefing. "We can see from data that's produced with WHO data by the U.S. CDC that more than half of all the countries in the world will be at high or very high risk of outbreaks by the end of this year."

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on the measles.