Measles cases skyrocket in Europe, killing dozens

Modesto Morganelli
Agosto 21, 2018

France, Georgia, Greece, Italy, Russia, Serbia, and Ukraine all recorded more than 1,000 measles cases in the first half of 2018.

Hardest hit with outbreaks has been Ukraine, with more than 23,000 affected.

More than 41,000 people contracted measles in Europe in the first six months of 2018 - nearly twice the annual number of cases seen in 2017, which had - until now - been the worst year in a decade with some 24,000 infections.

Last year, there were 23,927 measles cases in all of 2017. The illness is highly contagious and can spread rapidly among people who didn't get the MMR vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps and rubella.

Meanwhile, those who are starting university or attending festivals should also make sure they are protected.

PHE said many cases have been linked to ongoing outbreaks in Europe.

Public Health England officials said the majority of cases we are seeing are in teenagers and young adults who missed out on their MMR vaccine when they were children.

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".

'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.

'We would encourage people to ensure they are up to date with their MMR vaccine before travelling to countries with ongoing measles outbreaks, heading to large gatherings such as festivals, or before starting university'.

The WHO's regional director for Europe, Zsuzsanna Jakab said in a statement, "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'.

Measles is a highly infectious viral illness and can be deadly in some cases.

Early signs of measles include cold-like symptoms, sore eyes that may be sensitive to light, fever and small greyish-white spots on the inside of the cheeks.

The NHS said measles will normally pass within a week to 10 days but in some people can cause life-threatening complications including deadly brain and lung infections.

Treatment focuses on staying hydrated, resting and taking painkillers, if necessary.

A blotchy red rash will normally appear on the head or upper neck spreading towards the rest of the body.

Reports from individual European countries suggest that 37 people have died in 2018 from the disease, with 14 of those in Serbia, the World Health Organization said.

"While most people vaccinate, some individuals do not". A 2016 global survey of vaccine confidence led by researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found Europe to be the region that was least confident in vaccine safety.

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