measles

Samoan authorities have arrested a prominent anti-vaccination activist amid an outbreak that has killed at least 63 people, most of them children.

Edwin Tamasese has been charged with "incitement against a government order," according to the BBC.

After decades of progress against one of the most contagious human viruses, the world is seeing measles stage a slow, steady comeback.

The World Health Organization and the CDC say in a new report that there were nearly 10 million cases of measles last year, with outbreaks on every continent.

An estimated 140,000 people died from measles in 2018, WHO says, up from an all-time low of 90,000 in 2016.

And so far 2019 has been even worse.

The Pacific island nation of Samoa will shut down government services for two days so that civil servants can focus on a nationwide immunization drive as the country struggles to end a measles outbreak that has claimed more than 50 lives, most of them children.

The Samoan government closed schools indefinitely Monday as it attempts to quell a measles epidemic that has killed at least six people and hospitalized dozens more. Health officials said the Pacific island nation's low immunization rate is the cause of the outbreak.

This year saw the largest outbreak of measles in the U.S. since 1994, with 1,250 cases reported as of Oct. 3, largely driven by families choosing not to vaccinate their kids. Worldwide, the disease has resurfaced in areas that had been declared measles-free.

With measles making a comeback in many upper-income countries including the United States and still rampant in some poorer nations such as Democratic Republic of Congo and Madagascar, a leading measles expert is warning of a danger beyond the spread of the disease itself: There's mounting evidence that when a person is infected with measles, the virus also wipes out the immune system's memory of how to fight off all sorts of other life-threatening infections – ranging from gastro-intestinal bugs that cause diarrhea to respiratory viruses that trigger pneumonia.

Destination: Bulgaria. It's a small country in Eastern Europe, often overlooked by American tourists. But my husband's father grew up in Bulgaria, so it's long been on our travel list.

It's also on the list of countries with recent measles outbreaks. Bulgaria has had almost 800 cases this year, according to the World Health Organization.

The number of new measles cases in the United States so far this year has hit 971, exceeding a record established 25 years ago that covered a whole year of new measles cases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Thursday.

The measles outbreak got so bad in Manila, Philippines, that San Lazaro Hospital had to set up tents in the parking lot, the courtyard and even the landing at the top of the stairs outside the pediatric ward to house patients.

"This ward would only accommodate 50 patients," says Dr. Ferdinand de Guzman, the head of family medicine at the hospital. "But at the height of the outbreak, [there were] 300 patients per ward."

Updated at 1 p.m. ET

Amid one of the largest measles outbreaks in the U.S. in recent history, vaccines are on the minds of many Americans.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported this week that the number of measles cases this year has climbed to 839 in 23 states, affecting mostly unvaccinated people. Most people in the U.S. are vaccinated against measles when they're children as part of the routine immunizations they get in primary care.

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