Medicine

Europe sees sharp rise in measles: 41000 cases, 37 deaths

Europe sees sharp rise in measles: 41000 cases, 37 deaths

The health agency said more than 41,000 children and adults were infected with the highly contagious disease between January and June - well above the number of total cases in any other year over the past decade.

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

Seven countries in the region have seen over 1000 infections in children and adults this year (France, Georgia, Greece, Italy, the Russian Federation, Serbia and Ukraine).

The World Health Organization said half the cases in Europe so far this year - about 23,000 - occurred in Ukraine. The agency says travelers from other countries with measles contribute to the spread of the virus in the U.S.

In England, there have been 807 cases so far this year.

"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", WHO's Dr. Nedret Emiroglu said in a statement.

There were 23,927 cases in 2017, and roughly 5,300 in 2016.

The risk of measles lasts for up to 21 days after contact with a case.

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Catching the disease is rare once immunized with the MMR vaccine, however, dubious allegations of side effects caused by the vaccination - such as causing autism - has resulted in some parents avoiding getting their children vaccinated.

Symptoms of measles may include rash, high fever, cough, runny nose, and red, watery eyes.

According to the latest assessment by the European Regional Verification Commission for Measles and Rubella Elimination (RVC) released today, 43 of the Region's 53 Member States have interrupted the endemic spread of measles and 42 have interrupted rubella (based on 2017 reporting).

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at PHE, said: "We have seen a number of measles outbreaks in England which are linked to ongoing large outbreaks in Europe".

During the first half of this year, Romania has registered 616 new cases of measles.

Professor Peter Openshaw, president of the British Society for Immunology, added: "There has been a safe and effective vaccine to protect against measles since 1968, which has revolutionised the health of our children and saved many lives".

The NHS recommends all children receive the MMR around their first birthday and then just before starting school.


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