There is now an imminent threat of the spread of measles in several regions of the world, as the covid pandemic has led to a steady decline in vaccination coverage and weakened surveillance of the disease, the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Measles is one of the most contagious human viruses and is almost entirely preventable through vaccination. However, it requires 95% vaccination coverage to prevent outbreaks among populations.

A record nearly 40 million children missed a dose of the measles vaccine in 2021 due to obstacles created by the Covid pandemic, the The WHO and CDC said in a joint report.

While measles cases have yet to rise dramatically compared to previous years, now is the time to act, WHO measles leader Dr. Patrick O’Connor said. told Reuters.

“We are at a crossroads,” he said Tuesday. «It’s going to be a very challenging 12-24 months trying to mitigate this.»

A combination of factors, such as persistent social distancing measures and the cyclical nature of measles, may explain why there has yet to be an explosion in cases despite widening immunity gaps, but that could change quickly, O said. ‘Connor, noting the highly contagious nature of the disease.

The United Nations health agency has already seen a rise in large disruptive outbreaks since the start of the year, rising from 19 to nearly 30 in September, he said, adding that he was particularly concerned about parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

Last week, the Columbus, Ohio, department of public health reported a measles outbreak with 24 active cases, according to the NBC News affiliate. WCMH. All of these cases are in unvaccinated children.

A case of measles often begins with a fever, but the illness is usually characterized by a rash that typically begins to spread from the face and neck after a few days. The virus can remain in the air and on surfaces for up to two hours, and an infected person can transmit the virus for up to four days before and after the rash appears. According to the WHO. There is no specific antiviral to treat measles.

The new report estimates that in 2021, around 128,000 people died of measles worldwide.