The number of measles cases worldwide rose by 300% in the first three months of 2019 compared with the same time last year, a report in the World Health Organization said. The United Nations body said provisional data has indicated a “clear trend”, with all regions of the world experiencing sustained rises in cases.

Measles is the world’s most contagious viral disease. According to the World Health Organisation, the virus remains an important cause of death among young children globally. When more than five cases of measles are reported in a place in a short span of time, it is considered an outbreak.

The surge in cases comes amid growing concerns about the impact of anti-vaccination campaigns. WHO said less than one in 10 cases are reportedly globally.

“Current outbreaks include the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Madagascar, Myanmar, Philippines, Sudan, Thailand and Ukraine, causing many deaths – mostly among young children,” the UN body said in its report published on Monday. “Over recent months, spikes in case numbers have also occurred in countries with high overall vaccination coverage, including the United States of America as well as Israel, Thailand, and Tunisia, as the disease has spread fast among clusters of unvaccinated people.”

The WHO African region has recorded a 700% increase in the number of cases. In Madagascar island, more than 1,200 people have been killed with the outbreak of measles. The country is facing its larges measles outbreak in history. Since September, the outbreak has killed mostly children under 15, the Independent reported.

WHO said it conducted emergency vaccination campaigns targeting 7 million children from six months through nine years of age. Madagascar is now seeing overall declines in measles cases and deaths, it added.

Also read: Growing fear about vaccination (including in India) is bringing back eradicated diseases

Outbreak in the US

Last week, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a public health emergency in parts of Brooklyn after a measles outbreak was reported. The emergency required unvaccinated people in the affected areas to get the vaccine or face fines of up to $1,000.

The outbreak in Brooklyn was traced to an unvaccinated child who became infected after visiting Israel, Reuters reported quoting the New York City’s Department of Health.

De Blasio and other city health officials had decried “misinformation” spread by people who have been campaigning against vaccines. Several parents in America have opposed measles vaccines believing that components of the vaccines can cause autism and other disorders.

Meanwhile, the number of confirmed cases of measles in the United States this year has jumped by nearly 20% in the week ending April 11, Reuters reported citing data from the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention.