Low vaccination rates raise fear for measles elimination status

That means that, little more than halfway through the year, 2018 is already the worst year on record for measles in Europe in a decade, World Health Organization said.

Past year there were 23,927 and in 2016 only 5,273.

The agency said half - some 23,000 cases - this year occurred in Ukraine, where an insurgency backed by Russian Federation has been fighting the government for four years in the east in a conflict that has killed over 10,000 people.

So far this year, there have been more than 1,000 cases of measles in seven European countries - France, Georgia, Greece, Italy, Russia, Serbia and Ukraine.

Global health officials called for increased vaccination efforts amid burgeoning rates of measles infection in Europe.

People have been urged to check they are vaccinated.

The measles virus is exceptionally contagious and spreads easily among susceptible individuals.

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The World Health Organization says more than 41,000 kids and adults contracted measles in European countries from January through June, and the outbreaks have killed dozens so far. Babies who are too young to be vaccinated are also vulnerable.

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

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".

The European Regional Verification Commission for Measles and Rubella Elimination (RVC) assessment released today shows 43 of the 53 member states have interrupted the endemic spread of measles. "Anyone who missed out on their MMR vaccine in the past or are unsure if they had two doses should contact their GP practice to catch up".

In Ireland there were 76 cases of measles reported by the middle of July compared to just one case for the same period previous year. England has seen 807 cases in the first half of this year.

"A social movement of public health vaccine opposition has been growing in the United States in recent years; subsequently, measles outbreaks have also increased", pediatrician Dr. Peter Hotez and colleagues wrote in their report, published in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS Medicine.

The NHS recommends all children receive the MMR around their first birthday and then just before starting school. Health chiefs say to prevent outbreaks there needs to immunisation coverage in 95% of Europe, with two vaccinations every year in every community, but now the coverage varies between 70 and 95% across the continent.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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