The 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa infected more than 24,000 people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, resulting in almost 10,000 deaths. A study published in the journal Science recently reports that measles cases could double in countries hardest hit by the West African Ebola virus. The outbreak interrupted healthcare services including child immunization programs, putting up to 20,000 children from nine months to five years at risk.
Routine immunization for childhood infectious diseases has helped these countries to significantly reduce measles cases in West Africa over the past decade. The three countries affected by Ebola had nearly 93,685 cases of measles in the decade between 1994 and 2003 but only 6,937 between 2004 and 2013. However, the outbreak of Ebola has changed this.
According to the researchers, regional measles outbreak may increase from 127,000 to 227,000 cases after 18 months, resulting in 2000 to 16,000 additional deaths. The report estimated that before the Ebola outbreak, about 778,000 children between nine months and five years – about 4 percent of the population of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – had not had measles vaccines. The study projects that the number of unvaccinated children could rise by 45 percent to 1,129,000 or by around 20,000 a month. The global epidemic has also disrupted delivery of vaccines against polio and tuberculosis.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that measles cases in the U.S. are also rising. Measles is one of the most transmissible diseases. CDC data indicate that from January 1 to March 13, 2015, 176 people from 17 states and the District of Columbia were reported to have measles. The states and localities determine vaccine requirements and exemption policies for children and adults based on the CDC’s recommendations on routine and catch-up vaccination.
Laboratory confirmation is necessary for all sporadic measles cases and all outbreaks. Real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) is used to detect measles-specific IgM antibody and measles RNA to confirm the infection. Clinical laboratories should equip themselves with quality chemistry analyzers and measles lgG test kits that provide reliable, cost-effective diagnostic testing for the detection of human IgG antibodies to the measles IgG in human serum or plasma.