Authors: Martha Powell, Future Science Group
In the first 6 months of 2018, over 41, 000 children and adults in the WHO European Region have been infected with measles – a number exceeding the 12-month totals for every other year this decade.
Since 2010 the highest annual total for measles was 23,917 in 2017, with the lowest being 5273 in 2016 – the total thus far in 2018 has far exceeded this at 41, 000. Reports have also indicated at least 37 deaths owing to measles this year.
Seven countries – France, Georgia, Greece, Italy, the Russuan Federation, Ukraine and Serbia –have seen over 1,000 cases this year. Of these, Ukraine has seen the largest burden, accounting for over half of the region’s total with 23,000 cases.
Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe, commented: “Following the decade’s lowest number of cases in 2016, we are seeing a dramatic increase in infections and extended outbreaks. We call on all countries to immediately implement broad, context-appropriate measures to stop further spread of this disease. 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.”
The European Regional Verification Commission for Measles and Rubella Elimination has expressed concerns about inadequate disease surveillance and low immunization coverage in some countries. While immunization coverage with two doses of the vaccine increased from 88% of eligible children in the Region in 2016 to 90% in 2017, large disparities at the local level persist, with some communities reporting over 95% coverage and others below 70%.
Jakab concluded: “We can stop this deadly disease. But 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.”
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Source: WHO press release