Measles epidemic in Europe - 37 deaths already
Over 41,000 children and adults in Europe contracted measles in the first six months of 2018. This emerges from a report by the World Health Organization WHO. This would mean that the half-yearly values would now be twice as high as the full-year values of previous years. 37 people have already died from the consequences of the infectious disease.
"After the low number of measles cases in 2016, we experience a dramatic increase in infections with extensive outbreaks," reports Dr. Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe, in a statement on infection events. The number of illnesses was exceptionally high in the first half of 2018. According to the WHO, in 2017 there were only 23,927 measles cases in the whole year, in 2016 only 5,273 cases.
WHO demands quick action
"We call on all countries to immediately take comprehensive and appropriate measures to stop the spread of this disease," says the regional director. Good health for everyone starts with vaccination.
Seven countries were particularly hard hit
Measles raged particularly hard in seven European countries, including France, Georgia, Greece, Italy, Russia, Serbia and Ukraine. According to the WHO report, more than 1,000 infections per country were reported here. The situation is particularly controversial in Ukraine - with 23,000 reported cases, the country represents more than half of all illnesses. The greatest number of deaths occurred in Serbia with 14 victims.
Low vaccination rates in Europe
The European Regional Measles and Rubella Verification Commission (RVC) recently published an assessment of the endemic spread of measles. The RVC criticizes that there is insufficient monitoring of measles in some European countries. Furthermore, the vaccination rate is sometimes low.
Setbacks in measles control
"This partial setback shows that anyone who is not immune is vulnerable," comments Dr. Nedret Emiroglu, director of the Health Emergency Department at the WHO Regional Office for Europe. Every country must press for increased coverage of vaccinations and gaps in immunity.
Measles is extremely contagious
"The measles virus is extraordinarily contagious and spreads easily to susceptible individuals," said the WHO experts. In order to avoid outbreaks, 95 percent vaccination coverage is needed in every community. According to the WHO, there are large differences within Europe regarding the vaccination rate. While the 95 percent rate was reached in some regions, other regions did not even reach 70 percent.
Some regions are still very vulnerable
"We have to celebrate our achievements so far without losing sight of those who are still vulnerable," said Dr. Jakab. Some regions would urgently need WHO's continued attention.
Measles can be stopped
"We can stop this deadly disease," said Jakab. However, this can only succeed if everyone does their part. Vaccinating your child and yourself and reminding others of the vaccine can help save lives. (vb)