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Measles makes a comeback, especially in North India

The number of people getting infected with measles, a deadly disease that causes a red rash and is spread through the air, has shown a steady increase in four adjoining states of North India, as well as Gujarat.

Measles is a highly contagious infection caused by the measles virus and can cause complications such as diarrhea, blindness, inflammation of the brain, and pneumonia among others.

The total number of measles infections in four adjacent states — Delhi, Haryana, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh, has been on an increase in the last four years, health minister figures show. Gujarat is the only other state in India to show a similar increase in measles infections.

The total number of measles cases in these five states was at 1,782 in 2013, rising to 3,533 in 2014, 4,247 in 2015 and 4,545 in 2016 — an increase of 155% (see chart above).

As a result, the share of these five states in the total number of rubella (measles) cases almost doubled in these four years from 10.8% to 20.9%.

There is no data on what caused the increase.

SLOW PROGRESS

The total number of measles cases, after showing notable declines till the year 2012. It fell from 56,188 cases in 2009 to 16,479 in 2013. However, since then, it has shown an increase, and clocked in at 21,697 in 2016 — the latest for which data is available (see chart below).

In response, the government has, in February of this year, started a new vaccination campaign for children from 9 months to less than 15 years.

The campaign has so far been implemented in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Goa and Lakshadweep.

A total of 3.33 crores children have been vaccinated under this campaign, health ministry numbers show. The total number of children below 15 years in India is estimated at around 40 cr or 400 mln.

Measles was brought under the Universal Immunization Programme (UIP) in 1985. A second dose of measles vaccine was introduced in 2010.

Those who receive their vaccine under the new program do not need to undergo the two-dose vaccination program.

DEADLY DISEASE

Symptoms of measles, known as khasra in Hindi, typically include fever, often greater than 104.0 °F, cough, runny nose, and inflamed eyes.

Two or three days after the start of symptoms, small white spots may form inside the mouth, known as Koplik’s spots.

A red, flat rash which usually starts on the face and then spreads to the rest of the body typically begins three to five days after the start of symptoms.

Symptoms usually develop 10–12 days after exposure to an infected person and last 7–10 days.

Measles spreads via the air through coughs and sneezes.

People are infectious to others from four days before to four days after the start of the rash.

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