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Health Highlights, Nov. 13, 2020

By HealthDay Reporter

Below are newsworthy items compiled by the Healthday staff:

Measles Deaths Reach Highest Level in 23 Years

Measles deaths are the highest they have been in more than two decades, a new World Health Organization/U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analysis finds.

The death toll of 207,500 in 2019 was 50% higher than just three years earlier, The New York Times reported.

No measles deaths were reported in the United States in 2019, but the country had the highest number of cases since 1992.

"We know how to prevent measles outbreaks and deaths," Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said in a CDC news release. "These data send a clear message that we are failing to protect children from measles in every region of the world. We must collectively work to support countries and engage communities to reach everyone, everywhere with measles vaccine and stop this deadly virus."

Experts say the steep rise in measles deaths worldwide is due to years of inadequate vaccination, and they fear that measles deaths will continue to increase as the coronavirus pandemic interferes with measles immunization and detection efforts, the Times reported.

"Before there was a coronavirus crisis, the world was grappling with a measles crisis, and it has not gone away," said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director. "While health systems are strained by the COVID-19 pandemic, we must not allow our fight against one deadly disease to come at the expense of our fight against another. This means ensuring we have the resources to continue immunization campaigns for all vaccine-preventable diseases, even as we address the growing COVID-19 pandemic."

"Measles virus easily finds unprotected children, adolescents and adults because it is so contagious," explained Dr. Robert Linkins, the Measles & Rubella Initiative Management Team Chair and Accelerated Disease Control Branch Chief at the CDC. "Infections are not only a sign of poor measles vaccination coverage, but also a known marker, or 'tracer,' that vital health services may not be reaching populations most at-risk. Our collective efforts to reach children with vaccines now, ahead of the possible easing of COVID-19 travel restrictions and increased population movement, will save lives."

MS Drug May Benefit COVID-19 Patients

A multiple sclerosis drug may reduce COVID-19 patients' risk of severe illness, researchers report.

SNG001 is an experimental inhaled formula of interferon beta-1a, typically used to decrease inflammation and reduce nerve damage in multiple sclerosis patients, CNN reported.

In a Phase 2 trial, SNG001 was given to 48 COVID-19 patients using a nebulizer, while 50 other patients received a placebo.

"SNG001 reduced the odds of developing severe disease or dying by 79%," the British researchers wrote in the journal The Lancet Respiratory Medicine.

Further research is needed to confirm the drug's effectiveness, CNN reported.

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