This 19th Century Virus Just Killed 109,000 People

Failure to vaccinate has far-reaching consequences. Some suffer complications such as blindness, encephalitis (brain swelling caused by infection), severe diarrhea, dehydration, ear infections, and pneumonia. – Wikipedia

Failure to vaccinate: “far reaching consequences”

Over 109,000 people died needlessly from measles in 2017 alone |

Opinion, CNN | In the U.S., Europe, and Latin America, we’re seeing more and more headlines proclaiming a child has suffered due to measles — a disease that is easily preventable by vaccination.

In 2018, in Europe, 72 people have died and more than 59,000 have fallen ill with measles — greater than double the number from the previous year.

Meanwhile, nearly 17,000 people have caught the virus in South America and 76 people have died in Venezuela alone, where a regional outbreak began.

“Between roughly 1855 and 2005, measles has been estimated to have killed about 200 million people worldwide. Measles killed 20 percent of Hawaii’s population in the 1850s. In 1875, measles killed over 40,000 Fijians, approximately one-third of the population. In the 19th century, the disease killed 50% of the [Andaman Islands] population. Seven to eight million children are thought to have died from measles each year before the vaccine was introduced.” – Wikipedia

As the disease surges to its highest levels in more than a decade, it’s imperative that we all come together to stop the world from backsliding any further — and that means ensuring everyone gets vaccinated.


Unless we act — and fast — more people will get the virus and die. And many of the victims will be children.

Together with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, we have supported the vaccination of over 2 billion children, resulting in more than an estimated 21 million lives saved …

But now, after years of winning hard-fought battles, the current outbreaks threaten our progress. Measles may once again become common in places previously measles-free, as fewer children are being vaccinated.

This is the reason outbreaks are occurring in Europe and the Americas — vaccination coverage has dropped, which means not enough people are being vaccinated.

At least 95% of a population must receive two doses of the measles-containing vaccine to stop the virus from spreading, and in many areas with outbreaks, this is not happening. Read more. 

Kathy Calvin is President and CEO of the United Nations Foundation and Gail McGovern is President and CEO of the American Red Cross. The views expressed in this commentary are their own.


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