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Record high measle cases in Europe

Staff Writer | August 23, 2018
Over 41,000 children and adults in Europe have been infected with measles in the first half of 2018, more than any total year this decade, according to the World Health Organization regional office for Europe.
Europe   "We will not succeed unless everyone plays their part"
The highest annual total for measles cases between 2010 and 2017 was 23,927 for 2017, and the lowest was 5,273 for 2016. Monthly country reports also indicate that at least 37 people have died due to measles so far this year, the Copenhagen, Denmark-based office said in a press release.

"Following the decade's lowest number of cases in 2016, we are seeing a dramatic increase in infections and extended outbreaks," Dr. Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe, was quoted in the release as saying on Monday.

France, Georgia, Greece, Italy, the Russian Federation, Serbia and Ukraine have seen over 1,000 infections in children and adults this year. Ukraine has been the hardest hit, with over 23 000 people affected. Measles-related deaths have been reported in all of these countries, with Serbia reporting the highest number of 14.

The measles virus is exceptionally contagious and spreads easily among susceptible individuals. To prevent outbreaks, at least 95 percentimmunization coverage with 2 doses of measles-containing vaccine is needed for people, including those who missed routine vaccination in the past, the WHO Europe office said.

While immunization coverage increased from 88 percent of eligible children in the region in 2016 to 90 percent in 2017, large disparities at the local level persist: some communities report over 95 percent coverage, and others below 70 percent.

"Good health for all starts with immunization, and as long as this disease is not eliminated we are failing to live up to our Sustainable Development Goal commitments," Jakab said, adding "we will not succeed unless everyone plays their part: to immunize their children, themselves, their patients, their populations - and also to remind others that vaccination saves lives."