Measles cases Increased by 400% in Europe

The World Health Organization (WHO) warns of the rebound of measles in Europe during 2017. Last year the organization recorded 35 deaths and 21,315 cases of this disease, 400% more than the previous year, when a historical minimum was recorded with 5,273 cases. “This is a tragedy that we simply can not accept,” lamented the director of the European office of the United Nations, Zsuzsanna Jakab, after presenting the latest report of measles cases in the framework of a ministerial meeting on vaccines celebrated in Montenegro this week.

In its report, the WHO collects data from the 53 countries that make up the European region, and warns that up to one in four countries outbreaks have been recorded with more than 100 cases. The most punished country is Romania, where 5,562 cases were counted, according to this study. After Romania, Italy is located, with 5,006 cases, and Ukraine, with 4,767. WHO regrets that these countries have suffered a decrease in vaccine coverage.

Behind those countries, the most affected are Greece (967), Germany (927), Serbia (702), Tajikistan (649), France (520), Russia (408), Belgium (369), United Kingdom (282), Bulgaria (167), Spain (152), Czech Republic (146) and Switzerland (105). These populations experienced large outbreaks last year, although in many cases they were declining by the end of 2017.

The increase is somewhat higher than that recorded by the Surveillance System of the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC, for its acronym in English). In a report presented last week, this agency warned that cases tripled in the last year in the European Union.

“Every new person affected by measles in Europe reminds us that unvaccinated children and adults, regardless of where they live, are still at risk of contracting the disease and spreading it to others who may not be able to get vaccinated,” lamented Jakab, who urges to all countries to include the eradication of measles and rubella among their priority Sustainable Development objectives.

Measures to stop current outbreaks and prevent new ones must include greater awareness of the population, Jakab said. In addition, he insists that vaccination of health professionals and other groups at risk must be guaranteed, or that logistics and the supply of vaccines be improved to avoid stock-outs.

WHO welcomes the fact that by the end of 2016, a total of 42 of the 53 countries in the European region had interrupted the endemic transmission of measles. However, it warns that outbreaks will continue to occur until all children and susceptible adults are protected.

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Supriya Bhor

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