Europe's rise in measles kills at least 37 people

GETTY    
   MEASLES Europe has faced a reported record high number of measles cases this year

GETTY MEASLES Europe has faced a reported record high number of measles cases this year

Monthly country reports also indicate that at least 37 people have died due to measles this year, a WHO European Region report on Tuesday said.

Last year, there were 23,927 measles cases in all of 2017. Experts blame this surge in infections on a drop in the number of people being vaccinated.

The global health body said France, Georgia, Greece, Italy, Russia, Serbia and Ukraine have had more than 1,000 cases each so far in 2018. The WHO says it's now working closely with European countries to meet that threshold.

"This partial setback demonstrates that every person who is not immune remains vulnerable no matter where they live, and every country must keep pushing to increase coverage and close immunity gaps, even after achieving interrupted or eliminated status", says Dr Nedret Emiroglu, Director of the Division of Health Emergencies and Communicable Diseases at the WHO Regional Office for Europe. The infection is highly contagious and often spreads rapidly within the unvaccinated via droplets released on coughing and sneezing. In most cases it resolves within 10 days.

The MMR vaccine can prevent infection but discredited research 20 years ago that erroneously linked MMR to autism has stopped some people from trusting the vaccine.

"Children should routinely receive two vaccines against measles as part of the MMR vaccine, at one year of age and again as a pre-school booster (soon after the third birthday)". Serbia had the highest number of recorded deaths, at 14.

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Dr Nedret Emiroglu, from the World Health Organization, said: "This partial setback demonstrates that every under-immunised person remains vulnerable no matter where they live and every country must keep pushing to increase coverage and close immunity gaps".

Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO regional director for Europe, added: "Following the decade's lowest number of cases in 2016, we are seeing a dramatic increase in infections and extended outbreaks".

The number of cases of adults and children with the disease hit more than 41,000, the World Health Organization said.

"The great majority of parents get their children vaccinated according to their country's national immunization schedule to protect them from serious vaccine-preventable diseases but there is a minority that is still not vaccinating their children", he said.

"We would encourage people to ensure they are up to date with their MMR vaccine before travelling to countries with ongoing measles outbreaks, heading to large gatherings such as festivals, or before starting university", she said.

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