Nov. 30 (UPI) -- Global cases of measles have climbed drastically in 2017, claiming more than 100,000 lives in the process.
A new report from the World Health Organization tracking the spread of the disease since 2000 reveals that measles cases have spiked by more than 30 percent around the world since 2016.
Measles cases around the world have drastically increased in 2017, leaving many countries with extended outbreaks of the deadly disease.
In 2017, North and South America, along with the Eastern Mediterranean Region and Europe saw the biggest spikes of measles.
"The resurgence of measles is of serious concern, with extended outbreaks occurring across regions, and particularly in countries that had achieved, or were close to achieving measles elimination," Soumya Swaminathan, deputy director general for Programmes at WHO, said in a statement.
Measles is a highly contagious illness that can cause brain swelling, acute diarrhea, dehydration, permanent vision loss and pneumonia. Malnourished babies and children with compromised immune systems are especially susceptible to the disease.
It takes just two doses of a vaccine to prevent the disease, either on its own or as part of a vaccine covering measles, mumps, rubella or varicella. Global coverage of the first dose, however, has only reached 85 percent. 95 percent coverage is required to stave off outbreaks. Coverage of the second dose is only at 67 percent.
"Without urgent efforts to increase vaccination coverage and identify populations with unacceptable levels of under-, or unimmunized children, we risk losing decades of progress in protecting children and communities against this devastating, but entirely preventable disease," Swaminathan said.
To increase coverage, global health organizations want a bigger push of immunization systems and routine vaccination services in poor, marginalized communities, particularly those experiencing conflict and displacement.
The study showed that vaccines have saved more than 21 million lives since 2000.
"Sustained investments are needed to strengthen immunization service delivery and to use every opportunity for delivering vaccines to those who need them," said Robert Linkins, Branch Chief of Accelerated Disease Control and Vaccine Preventable Disease Surveillance at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.