HAMNET Report 30 December 2018

Reporting on Christmas Eve, ARRL News said that radio amateurs in Indonesia’s Banten Province were in position to support any necessary emergency communications in the wake of a “stealth tsunami” on December 22, that struck without warning. Indonesia’s Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency concluded that a volcanic eruption triggered a landslide underwater at Anak Krakatau.

The tsunami struck in the Sunda Strait between the islands of Java and Sumatra, which connects the Java Sea to the Indian Ocean. Rescue and relief activities are under way. The death toll was expected to top 400, and many people were reported to be still missing. Fatalities occurred in the Pandeglang, South Lampung, and Serang regions of Indonesia. Some 1,500 people were reported injured.

IARU Region 3 Disaster Communications Coordinator Dani Hidayat YB2TJV, said ORARI, Indonesia’s IARU member-society, would use 7.110 MHz for any relief and recovery communication. An ORARI CORE emergency team used a VHF repeater for regional communication.

ORARI reported that the LAPAN A2 satellite (IO-86) was being pressed into service for emergency communication purposes during the relief and recovery effort. IO-86 should not be used at this time for non-emergency traffic.

“ORARI Daerah Banten, immediately deployed the CORE ORARI Banten team to Cilegon and Serang where the disaster occurred to help the existing volunteer team,” said a report on the ORARI website.

“The disaster management agency warned that the death toll is likely to rise further,” Hidayat said. Some believe that high seas resulting from the full moon may have contributed to the force  of the waves. The disaster management agency said hundreds of buildings were damaged. Thousands of people were left homeless when the waves smashed homes on coastal areas of western Java and southern Sumatra.

Disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said the death toll had climbed to 429 on Tuesday with more than 1500 injured, and at least 128 still missing. Military troops, government personnel and volunteers were searching along debris-strewn beaches. Where victims were found, body bags were laid out, and weeping relatives identified the dead.

Express.co.uk says that a potential complete collapse of the Anak Krakatau volcano could trigger an unprecedented tsunami “at any moment” amid growing panic in Indonesia, which is still reeling from the first tsunami which killed more than 400 people last Saturday.

The threat level in Indonesia has been raised to its second highest, mandating a three-mile wide no-fly zone over the volcano.

Air traffic control AirNav said in a statement: “All flights are rerouted due to Krakatoa volcano ash on red alert.”

Scientists are concerned that the Anak Krakatau volcano could completely collapse – unleashing an unprecedented tsunami “without any notice”. Rosemarie North, from the Red Cross, told NBC News: “If the volcano collapses, you will not get much warning at all.”

The disaster last Saturday also took place without any earthquake activity beforehand. Indonesia is prone to natural disasters due to its location on what is called the Ring of Fire. The volatile region sits along plate tectonics underwater, causing earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

Phys.org reports that the Indonesian volcano lost more than two-thirds of its height following the eruption which triggered the killer waves.

A section of Anak Krakatau’s crater collapsed after an eruption and slid into the ocean, generating the tsunami last Saturday night.

A visual analysis by the Indonesian volcanology agency found the volcano has lost more than two-thirds of its height, an official said Saturday.

Anak Krakatau which used to stand 338 metres high was now just 110 metres tall.

The agency estimated the volcano lost between 150 and 180 million cubic metres of material as massive amounts of rock and ash have been slowly sliding into the sea following a series of eruptions.

“Anak Krakatau is now much shorter, usually you can see the peak from the observatory post, now you can’t,” Wawan Irawan, a senior official at the agency, told AFP.

Before and after satellite images taken by Japan’s space agency showed that a two square kilometre chunk of the volcanic island had collapsed into the water.

The volcano, whose name means Child of Krakatoa, was a new island that emerged around 1928 in the crater left by Krakatoa, whose massive 1883 eruption killed at least 36,000 people.

Exactly a week later, that is yesterday, a magnitude 7 earthquake struck off the coast of the Southern end of Philippines, not far from last week’s undersea landslide and tsunami, and at a depth of 60 km. A tsunami warning was immediately announced, but by midday, the warning had been lifted. Only about 20,000 people live within 100km of the epicentre, so quake damage will be little. We hope there will not be a lot of major aftershocks.

Now, in an indirect way, I read of some good news this week. A Vancouver Canada company called  Indro Corp has developed a $70,000 handheld radio frequency pulse rifle designed to immobilize drones.

The Chief Technology Officer for the company, Philip Reece (unfortunately no relation of mine), says that the Drone chaos at Gatwick airport last week emphasises the need for a regulated defence strategy.

He says the main stumbling block to widespread use of the jammer is regulatory. He notes that Industry Standards regulate who is allowed to use the devices, which would make a huge difference if deployed around an airport like Gatwick.

Gatwick was closed between 19 and 21 December due to numerous drone sightings in the area, affecting 140,000 passengers and delaying over 1000 flights.

Thank you to Jane Stephenson writing in the Toronto Sun for this article.

Let’s hope it won’t take long to sort out regulations in all countries, and that our little airports can also be protected against such stupid behaviour.

Once again, it is my pleasure, on behalf of HAMNET South Africa to wish all our readers and listeners a very happy and prosperous 2019, with good health and success in all you endeavour! May all your signals always be 5 and 9!

This is Dave Reece  ZS1DFR  reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.

HAMNET Report 23 December 2018

In depressing news of Humanitarian disaster, Aljazeera reports that The International Rescue Committee (IRC) has named the countries most at risk of being hit by humanitarian catastrophe next year, with Yemen, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan topping the top 10 list.

As wars, famines and other disasters loom over several countries, 2019 is set to be another arduous year for millions of people around the world.

The next 7 at-risk countries identified by the IRC’s emergency response experts are Afghanistan, Venezuela,  the  Central African Republic, Syria, Nigeria,  Ethiopia and Somalia.

The risks are human (from armed conflicts or economic collapse) as well as natural (from droughts, floods and other climate-related events).

Internal or external displacement is the defining trend in the IRC list. Around 40 million people have been displaced across the world, with the top 10 countries accounting for over half – or nearly 22 million – of those displacements.

The 10 countries also account for at least 13 million refugees, 65 percent of the global total, plus an additional 3 million people who have fled Venezuela.

According to the United Nations, nearly 132 million people in 42 countries around the world will need humanitarian assistance, including protection, in 2019.

Certainly food for thought, and it makes us realise that there are many people around the world far worse off than we are.

Now, from I4U News posted on 16 December, comes news that, on November 11, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe completed its first close approach to the sun. The spacecraft came as close as 15 million miles to the sun’s surface during that phase. This is far closer than any spacecraft has gone before. Now, Parker Solar Probe has returned first science data from this closest-ever solar encounter, which may help resolve decades-old questions about the inner workings of our nearest star.

“Heliophysicists have been waiting more than 60 years for a mission like this to be possible. The solar mysteries we want to solve are waiting in the corona,” said Nicola Fox, director of the Heliophysics Division at NASA. Heliophysics is the study of the Sun and how it affects space near Earth, around other worlds and throughout the solar system.

Launched in August, Parker Solar Probe is humanity’s first ever spacecraft to fly directly toward the sun. The small car-sized spacecraft will make 24 close approaches to the sun during the seven-year mission. With each flyby, it will get closer and closer to the sun, reaching within 3.9 million miles of the sun’s surface at closest approach. While zooming toward the sun, Parker probe will withstand extreme radiation and heat, thanks to its revolutionary heat shield, and allow scientists to explore the sun in a way never possible before.

The probe will study the sun’s outer atmosphere or corona in unprecedented detail. The corona is about 300 times hotter than the Sun’s surface. The atmosphere around the sun is not only unusual but also releases powerful plasma and energetic particles in all directions. The primary objective of the mission is to explore what accelerates these energetic particles as well as solar wind. The constant outpouring from the sun can create hazardous space weather events that impact life on Earth, disrupt radio communications and even interfere with power grids. This is the first time that researchers are studying the corona up close and personal. The resulting data could improve predictions of when major eruptions on the sun occur and how they affect the space environment.

“Parker Solar Probe is providing us with the measurements essential to understanding solar phenomena that have been puzzling us for decades,” said Nour Raouafi, Parker Solar Probe project scientist at the Johns Hopkins University. “To close the link, local sampling of the solar corona and the young solar wind is needed and Parker Solar Probe is doing just that.” End quote.

As this bulletin was being compiled yesterday, news came through of a Magnitude 5.5 Earthquake, which struck at 05h37 UTC in the North-Western regions of Mozambique, not far from the Zimbabwe border. The epicentre was 7.62km below the surface in an area with 930000 people living within 100km of it. The village of Chipinge in Eastern Zimbabwe felt the tremor badly, and vulnerable buildings were toppled by the instability.

Zimbabwe’s Meteorological Services Department said: “Most of the earthquakes that occur in this region are due to natural plate tectonics and this is attributed to the East African Rift System which extends into Mozambique.

“Manicaland in Zimbabwe is a seismically active region, evidenced by the many moderate to large earthquakes occurring each year.”

By the time we went to press last night, no news of casualties had been reported.

And, from the ARRL Letter for 20 December, comes news of a Christmas event.

As he’s done in years past, Brian Justin, WA1ZMS, of Forest, Virginia, will commemorate what may have been the first radio broadcast to include speech and music by experimenter Reginald Fessenden on Christmas Eve 1906. Justin will fire up his vintage-style transmitter operating on 486 kHz under Experimental license WI2XLQ to mark the 112th anniversary of Fessenden’s accomplishment. Justin will begin his transmission on December 24 at 1700 UTC and continue until December 26 at 1659 UTC.

Historic accounts say Fessenden played the violin — or a recording of violin music — and read a brief Bible verse, astounding radio experimenters and shipboard operators who heard the broadcast. For his transmitter in 1906, Fessenden used an ac alternator modulated by placing carbon microphones in series with the antenna feed line.

Justin’s homebuilt station is slightly more modern, based on a 1921 vacuum-tube master oscillator power amplifier (MOPA) design, using a UV-202 tube. The transmitter employs Heising AM modulation, developed by Raymond Heising during World War I.

Send listener reports directly to Brian Justin, WA1ZMS.

HAMNET South Africa wishes all its listeners and readers a Merry Christmas, where appropriate, and a safe, healthy and happy 2019. Oh, and please leave your radios on, monitoring the emergency frequencies in your area, to be available to help the people of this beautiful land if they need your assistance. Thank you!

This is Dave Reece  ZS1DFR  reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.

HAMNET Report 16 December 2018

What do solar cycles, comets, and band aids all have in common? Well, they’re all in this bulletin!

Scientists at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Kolkata, have come up with a path-breaking prediction for solar cycles, which affect numerous things in our daily lives, including space missions, global temperatures, radio communications, and more.

Writing in the Science section of ThePRINT this Friday, Sandhya Ramesh reports that Prantika Bhowmik, a PhD student at the Centre of Excellence in Space Sciences India (CESSI), and Dibyendu Nandi, her professor and co-author of the new paper, have devised a mathematical technique that predicts the next solar cycle ten years in advance. Their study was published in the journal Nature Communications last Thursday.

Sun spots have been observed and recorded for over four centuries, and it was found in the late 19th century that solar activity peaks and lulls approximately every 11 years. The cycles were reconstructed by combing through history, all the way back to 1745. The cycle that commenced that year and ended in 1766 is numbered ‘1’.

The cycles, however, are not exactly 11 years long; they vary between 9 years and 14 years, although 11 seems the average length. The next one, Cycle 25, is set to begin whenever Cycle 24 ends, possibly in early 2020, when all the sunspots start reflecting a reversed magnetic orientation.

A solar cycle functions in ‘maxima’ and ‘minima’. The start of a cycle is at minimal solar activity. This slowly picks up till it peaks mid-cycle in a ‘maximum’, where there can be up to 200 sun spots a day, travelling across the surface of the sun as it rotates. Then solar activity starts coming down again in a ‘minimum’ towards the end of the cycle. At present, the activity is at a minimum between Cycles 24 and 25.

Two big teams of scientists attempted to predict Cycle 24. Both teams used the same data but arrived at opposite conclusions: One claimed the cycle will be low while the other said it would be harsher. Furthermore, all models of prediction could only predict the maximum of a cycle when the minimum had already begun.

So Bhowmik and Nandi set about refining it. The advent of machine learning and complex algorithmic modelling meant they could do much more than what had been done for Cycle 24.

Their model is driven by observed data.

First, they observed the sun spots and noted down parameters such as timings, frequency, and ‘tilt angle’.

They feed this information about these spots into the first part of the algorithm which maps the polar flux on the sun’s surface, using magnetic field evolution models. Once that is mapped, it is used as input to the next part of the algorithm, which uses a dynamo model to predict what happens inside of the sun.

The algorithm then spits out the final prediction which combines the predictions for the upcoming minimum and the following maximum. Once the maximum is predicted, the decline is easy to predict.

Bhowmik and Nandi’s methods have been retro-tested for the data from the previous 100 years, and managed to accurately predict past cycles. They increase the prediction window to nearly 10 years, a historic high.

The model finds that there is not a lot of difference between the current and next solar cycle. In fact, Cycle 25 could even be slightly harsher than 24, with more sun spots. This becomes pertinent once again, especially since more and more nations are sending up satellites and other missions, including the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), which has a whole host of launches lined up.

“Cycle 25 is expected to peak around 2024, so if ISRO is planning any interplanetary or trans-lunar missions, it would be safe for them to launch at least a couple of years before or after the peak,” said Bhowmik.

The study was supported by India’s ministry of human resource development, the Indo-French Centre for the Promotion of Advanced Research, and NASA.

Thank you to ThePRINT for that news.

Then, a reminder that today, the 16th of December, marks the closest approach to Earth of the Comet 46P/Wirtanen, which will be visible this evening, clouds permitting, in the Northern sky, between the red star Aldebaran, part of the constellation Taurus, to the left of Orion’s famous belt, and the Pleiades cluster, also called the “Seven Sisters”. So, go outside tonight at about 10pm, let your eyes get accustomed to the gloom, see if you can recognise Orion standing on his head, and look slightly to the left and higher up than Orion for the reddish Aldebaran, and then a little further West. Between Aldebaran and the “Seven Sisters”, you might see a greenish glow, slightly bigger than the customary size of the moon, that is the dust cloud around comet 46P/Wirtanen. A pair of binoculars of magnification 7 to 10 times, will make the comet more visible. After about Tuesday, the Moon will be in the evening sky, and block out your vision of the comet. So now’s your chance. Good luck!

Now, for all the cowards out there, pulling off a Band-Aid may soon get a lot less painful!

Researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and Xi’an Jiaotong University in China have developed a new type of adhesive that can strongly adhere wet materials—such as hydrogel and living tissue—and be easily detached with a specific frequency of light.

The adhesives could be used to attach and painlessly detach wound dressings, transdermal drug delivery devices, and wearable robotics.

The paper is published in Advanced Materials.

“Strong adhesion usually requires covalent bonds, physical interactions, or a combination of both,” said Yang Gao, first author of the paper and researcher at Xi’an Jiaotong University. “Adhesion through covalent bonds is hard to remove, and adhesion through physical interactions usually requires solvents, which can be time-consuming and environmentally harmful. Our method of using light to trigger detachment is non-invasive and painless.”

The adhesive uses an aqueous solution of polymer chains spread between two, non-sticky materials—like jam between two slices of bread. On their own, the two materials adhere poorly together but the polymer chains act as a molecular suture, stitching the two materials together by forming a network with the two pre-existing polymer networks. This process is known as topological entanglement.

These two hydrogels, adhered with an aqueous solution of polymer chains, come apart easily In the presence of UV light. Without UV light, the hydrogels are adhered strongly to one another and don’t come apart easily. When exposed to ultra-violet light, the network of stitches dissolves, separating the two materials.

There is, at last, hope for all of us who don’t enjoy having plasters ripped off our skin!

This is Dave Reece  ZS1DFR  reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.

HAMNET Report 9 December 2018

In the absence of much EmComm news this week, we look to the skies for interesting snippets of information.

NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft completed its 2 billion-kilometre  journey to arrive at the asteroid Bennu on Monday. The spacecraft executed a manoeuvre that transitioned it from flying towards Bennu to operating around the asteroid.

Now, at about 19 kilometres from Bennu’s Sun-facing surface, OSIRIS-REx will begin a preliminary survey of the asteroid. The spacecraft will commence flyovers of Bennu’s north pole, equatorial region, and south pole, getting as close as nearly 7 kilometres above Bennu during each flyover.

OSIRIS-REx’s mission will help scientists investigate how planets formed and how life began, as well as improve our understanding of asteroids that could impact Earth. Asteroids are remnants of the building blocks that formed the planets and enabled life. Those like Bennu contain natural resources, such as water, organics and metals. Future space exploration and economic development may rely on asteroids for these materials.

The mission’s navigation team will use the preliminary survey of Bennu to practice the delicate task of navigating around the asteroid. The spacecraft will enter orbit around Bennu on Dec. 31 — thus making Bennu, which is only about  500 meters across — or about the length of five football fields — the smallest object ever orbited by a spacecraft. It’s a critical step in OSIRIS-REx’s years-long quest to collect and eventually deliver at least 60 grams of regolith — dirt and rocks — from Bennu to Earth.

OSIRIS-REx mission marks many firsts in space exploration. It will be the first U.S. mission to carry samples from an asteroid back to Earth, and the largest sample returned from space since the Apollo era. It’s the first to study a primitive B-type asteroid, which is an asteroid that’s rich in carbon and organic molecules that make up life on Earth. It is also the first mission to study a potentially hazardous asteroid and try to determine the factors that alter their courses to bring them close to Earth.

When OSIRIS-REx begins to orbit Bennu at the end of this month, it will come close to approximately 1.25 kilometres from its surface. In February 2019, the spacecraft begins efforts to globally map Bennu to determine the best site for sample collection. After the collection site is selected, the spacecraft will briefly touch the surface of Bennu to retrieve a sample. OSIRIS-REx is scheduled to return the sample to Earth in September 2023.

Thank you to the Southgate Amateur Radio Club news report for these extracts. What an amazing accomplishment it will be if the mission is successful!

Here’s more astronomical news for you science boffins.

Discovered on January 17, 1948 by American Astronomer Carl Wirtanen at the Lick Observatory near San Jose in the state of California, Comet 46P/Wirtanen is one of ten comets to have made very close approaches to the Earth in modern history. Only a handful of these ten comets, including 46P/Wirtanen, were bright enough to be seen with naked eyes.

Some astronomers have predicted that 46P/Wirtanen may be visible without any viewing aids in the weeks around December 16, 2018, when it makes its closest approach to the Earth in 70 years. This is just 4 days after the comet reaches its perihelion—the closest point to the Sun on its orbit—on Dec 12, 2018.

In early December, the comet will move through constellations Eridanus and Cetus. It will reach Taurus around December 12 and pass very close to the Pleiades star cluster around December 16.

To find Taurus, and Comet Wirtanen, look high up in the sky after the end of civil twilight in the evening and before it gets light in the morning.

Don’t say you haven’t been notified! Get out your pair of binoculars, lie on your back in the garden in a dark site, and look more or less straight up for Taurus and the Pleiades cluster. Thank you to timeanddate.com for these details.

Here’s another report from the World Health Organisation’s weekly newsletter.

The Global status report on road safety 2018, launched by WHO in December 2018, highlights the fact that the number of annual road traffic deaths has reached 1.35 million. Road traffic injuries are now the leading killers of people aged 5-29 years. The burden is disproportionately borne by pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists, in particular those living in developing countries. The report suggests that the price paid for mobility is too high, especially because proven measures exist. These include strategies to address speed and drinking and driving, among other behaviours; safer infrastructure like dedicated lanes for cyclists and motorcyclists; improved vehicle standards such as those that mandate electronic stability control; and enhanced post-crash care. Drastic action is needed to put these measures in place to meet any future global target that might be set and save lives.

Finally, the Western Cape Division of HAMNET South Africa held its end of year function yesterday afternoon at a beautiful high site on the slopes of the mountain above Gordon’s Bay, at the home of Deputy Regional Director, Peter Dekker, ZS1PDE.

Peter had graciously offered his home as a venue and saw to the salads and light refreshments at the bring-and-braai, which took place as the afternoon progressed.

The meeting was attended by most of the regular volunteers, and good fellowship was enjoyed by all.

Our Regional Director, Grant Southey ZS1GS, made a short speech of thanks to all members for their contributions to the field of EmComms in the Western Cape during the year, and presented them with certificates of appreciation.

HAMNET Western Cape bulletins on a Wednesday evening at 19h30 will end for the year after this coming Wednesday the 12th of December, and will resume after the festive season on 9th January 2019.

This is Dave Reece  ZS1DFR  reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.

HAMNET Report 2 December 2018

Greg Mossop says he has received further information on the NATO Exercise Vigorous Warrior in Romania next year from Adrian YO3HJV.

The exercise is co-ordinated by the NATO Centre of Excellence for Military Medicine (NATO MILMED COE) and the general framework of the exercise is the intervention of military forces in a disaster scenario, assisted by civil resources.

The scenarios for Amateur Radio involvement are still being developed, but will exercise communications inside the exercise area and possibly externally.
This is where it is hoped other countries can be included.

One possible scenario could be that there are interruptions in communications between national command centers and their teams participating in the exercise.  We could help by transmitting information via HF to the organizations involved, using WINLINK, PACTOR, or another suitable digimode.

Following some experience from the Malta/EU exercises, there will need to be some preparation before the exercise, so that the radio amateurs who will operating in both the exercise area and the national command centres are accredited in advance, and given any appropriate contact details, so that the messages can get to the destination with some trust.

A list of other European country organizations who have indicated their interest in  taking part, includes

The Dutch Amateur Radio Emergency Service (Secretary Jan Rozema PA7O); the Radio Amateur Association of Greece/Emergency Service (Board member Sotirios Vanikiotis SV1HER); Belgian Emergency Radio Service (Secretary Karel Cornelis ON7TA); EMCOM Spain (Jose Antonio Mendez EA9CD); and Slovenia (Tilen Cestnik S56CT)

Greg G0DUB thanks these countries who have thus far shown interest.

Between 19h29 our time on Friday evening, and 07h30 on Saturday morning, the South coast of Alaska near Anchorage was struck by 9 earthquakes, of magnitude 4.5 or greater, all between 20 and 40km below the ground, and threatening about 400 000 people living within 100 km of the epicentre. The first shock had magnitude 7,  and  ripped across the Anchorage area on Friday at 19h29. Buildings wobbled, roads cracked and thousands lost power during the morning commute.

After peaking above 50,000, the number of customers without power dropped to about 25,000 in Anchorage and neighbouring areas by Friday evening, Anchorage officials said at a news conference. The public radio station fielded multiple calls about the cleanliness of the water supply, with some residents reporting reddish-brown water coming from their taps. Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility reported more than two dozen mainline water breaks and the city advised residents to boil their tap water as a precaution.

The Federal Aviation Administration declared a ground stop at the airport after the earthquake. At 11:30 a.m. Anchorage time, the FAA said it had begun letting flights depart from the airport, but the ground stop was kept in place for arrivals.

The National Weather Service in Anchorage briefly suspended operations on their Friday morning after a tsunami warning was issued. All of the office’s duties were handed over to the Fairbanks office, and the meteorologists and staff evacuated. Operations resumed at the Anchorage office after the warning was cancelled.

Friday’s quake occurred on a fault line between the Pacific and North American tectonic plates, the USGS said. The rupture between the faults occurred in an area where the Pacific plate is moving underneath Alaska. Anchorage was severely damaged in March 1964 by the Great Alaska Earthquake, a 9.2-magnitude quake with its epicentre about 75 miles east of the city. That quake, which lasted for about 4½ minutes, was the most powerful earthquake recorded in U.S. history. It destroyed a major part of downtown Anchorage and caused a tsunami that ravaged towns on the Gulf of Alaska and beyond.

Thank you to the Washington Post for the majority of this report.

Now, doffing my HAMNET hat and donning my MEDICAL one, I wish to tell you that reported measles cases spiked in 2017, as multiple countries experienced severe and protracted outbreaks of the disease, according to the World Health Organization.

Because of gaps in vaccination coverage, measles outbreaks occurred in all regions, while there were an estimated 110 000 deaths related to the disease.

Using updated disease modelling data, the report provides the most comprehensive estimates of measles trends over the last 17 years. It shows that since 2000, over 21 million lives have been saved through measles immunizations. However, reported cases increased by more than 30 percent worldwide from 2016 to 2018.

The Americas, the Eastern Mediterranean Region, and Europe experienced the greatest upsurges in cases in 2017, with the Western Pacific the only World Health Organization (WHO) region where measles incidence fell.

“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,” said Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Deputy Director General for Programmes at WHO. “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.”

Measles is a serious and highly contagious disease. It can cause debilitating or fatal complications, including encephalitis (an infection that leads to swelling of the brain), severe diarrhoea and dehydration, pneumonia, ear infections and permanent visual loss. Babies and young children with malnutrition and weak immune systems are particularly vulnerable to complications and death.

The disease is preventable through two doses of a safe and effective vaccine. For several years, however, global coverage with the first dose of measles vaccine has stalled at 85 percent. This is far short of the 95 percent needed to prevent outbreaks, and leaves many people, in many communities, susceptible to the disease.

“The increase in measles cases is deeply concerning, but not surprising,” said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. “Complacency about the disease and the spread of falsehoods about the vaccine in Europe, a collapsing health system in Venezuela and pockets of fragility and low immunization coverage in Africa are combining to bring about a global resurgence of measles after years of progress. Existing strategies need to change: more effort needs to go into increasing routine immunization coverage and strengthening health systems.”

The agencies also call for actions to build broad-based public support for immunizations, while tackling misinformation and hesitancy around vaccines where these exist.

The misinformation referred to, is a illogical claim that measles vaccines have a chance of causing Autism Spectrum Disorder in children. This is a totally disproved  rumour based on false evidence debunked about 40 years ago.

PLEASE immunise your child against measles. He or she will not get Autism Spectrum Disorder, but he or she may well die of measles if not immunised!

This is Dave Reece  ZS1DFR   reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.