Aug. 13 (UPI) -- There have been more reported measles cases in the first six months of 2019 than in any year since 2006, straining healthcare systems the world over, the World Health Organization said.
Measles outbreaks continue to rapidly spread worldwide, leading to serious illnesses, disability and death, according to a new report by WHO, citing provisional monthly data submitted to the organization.
The United Nations agency said the 364,808 infections recorded worldwide this year is three times that of the same period last year and follows on-year worldwide increases that began in 2016.
So far, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Madagascar and Ukraine have reported the highest number of cases while major outbreaks continue in Angola, Cameroon, Chad, Kazakhstan, Nigeria Philippines, South Sudan, Sudan and Thailand.
The report said the African Region experienced a 900 percent on-year increase in the number of measles cases while the Western Pacific Region experienced a 230 percent increase, the Europe Region experienced a 120 percent increase and the Eastern Mediterranean Region experienced a 50 percent increase in the preventable disease.
The only regions to experience decreases were the South-East Region and the Region of the Americas, both of which saw a 15 percent decrease in the number of reported cases, it said.
"The largest outbreaks are in countries with low measles vaccination coverage, currently or in the past, which has left large numbers of people vulnerable to the disease," WHO said in the release. "At the same time, protracted outbreaks are occurring even in countries with high national vaccination rates."
It said countries such as the United States and those in Europe are also experiencing record highs despite large portions of their populations being vaccinated due to inequities in vaccine coverage, causing certain communities and demographics to be most adversely affected.
For instance, the United States reported a 25-year high in the number of measles infections while Europe surpassed 90,000 recorded measles cases in the first six months of this year, which is already more than the 84,462 cases for all of 2018, it said.
WHO said it urges anyone who hasn't been vaccinated to do so as "high rates of vaccination coverage -- 95 percent nationally and within communities -- are needed to ensure that measles is unable to spread."