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Measles, whooping cough and polio – scarier than a zombie outbreak


What could possibly be scarier than the global spread of a mysterious zombie disease in US thiller Contagion? How about this interactive map, which shows an alarming number of outbreaks for preventable diseases. 

The Council on Foreign Relations’ interactive map, which plots outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases like measles, mumps, whooping cough, polio, and rubella from 2008 to the present, has gone viral on social media, thanks to a tweet from the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) CEO Seth Berkley.

This map does two important things. First, it does something rare in the development space: it uses data visualisation to help people understand the spread and prevalence of an outbreak – not just numbers and figures. Secondly, it shows us how important vaccines are. Nearly all of these cases could have been prevented if people had improved access to vaccines and stronger health systems around them.

It’s even scarier when you break the map apart in the full interactive map here. Here’s the measles map, for example:

Diseases like measles exist in all inhabited continents and kill approximately 122,000 people every year—that’s 14 deaths every hour.  What’s worse? Most of these people are children under five years old.

Here’s the map for whooping cough

Pertussis, otherwise known as whooping cough, also targets small children. The World Heath Organisation (WHO) estimates some 195 000 patients died from this disease in 2008.

This map shows the prevalence of polio 

While initiatives by the WHO have reduced poliomyelitis by 99%, polio still affects the most vulnerable. 95% of outbreaks in developing countries affect children under five years old.

As our friends at GAVI say, #vaccineswork. GAVI is set to achieve it’s target to immunise 243 million children by 2015. 

Unlike “Contagion”, where no vaccine exists, we can put an end to these ugly diseases because we have inexpensive vaccines to do so.

Which map surprised you the most?

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