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An Infectious Disease Canary in a Coal Mine

A nearly 80 percent jump in the number of measles cases worldwide could trigger larger outbreaks of this vaccine-preventable disease, the World Health Organization and UNICEF warned on Wednesday. Almost 17,338 measles cases were reported worldwide in January and February 2022 compared to 9,665 during the first two months of 2021, largely due to insufficient vaccine coverage, according to the organizations.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has interrupted immunization services, health systems have been overwhelmed, and we are now seeing a resurgence of deadly diseases including measles," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement. "Now is the moment to get essential immunization back on track and launch catch-up campaigns so that everybody can have access to these life-saving vaccines."

The Guardian reports that officials fear that outbreaks of other diseases could follow. "Measles is what we call the tracer, or the canary in the coalmine, that really shows us where those weaknesses in the immunization system are," Christopher Gregory, UNICEF's senior health advisor for immunization, is quoted as saying, adding that yellow fever could surge next after rising cases were reported in Africa.