Deaths From Measles Outbreak Quadrupled In Europe Last Year, WHO Says


Outbreaks of measles increased 400% in Europe past year, with the World Health Organization (WHO) warning the highly contagious virus has regained a foothold due to immunization decline and vaccine supply problems.

"Over 20,000 cases of measles, and 35 lives lost in 2017 alone, are a tragedy we simply can not accept", she said.

Ministers of health of 11 countries will meet on 20 February 2018 to discuss working together to achieve the goals set out in the European Vaccine Action Plan (EVAP) by 2020, including measles and rubella elimination.

It said there was a four-fold increase in cases as the disease affected 21,315 people and caused 35 deaths in 2017. These countries have experienced a range of challenges in recent years, such as declines in overall routine immunization coverage, consistently low coverage among some marginalized groups, interruptions in vaccine supply or underperforming disease surveillance systems.

Measles is a highly infectious viral illness that can be deadly and the MMR vaccine can prevent it.

"Kids up to 6 years old won't be accepted into nursery schools without them", reporter Christopher Livesay told NPR. The law also imposed penalties on parents who did not vaccinate their children.

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Although research published 20 years ago about a possible link between the MMR vaccine and autism has been discredited, the scare it created damaged some people's trust of the vaccine.

Far fewer cases were reported in other European countries, including 967 in Greece, 927 in Germany, 702 in Serbia, 649 in Tajikistan, 520 in France, 408 in the Russian Federation, 369 in Belgium, 282 in the United Kingdom, 167 in Bulgaria, 152 in Spain, 146 in Czechia and 105 in Switzerland. Vaccination rates fell from 90 percent in 2010 to 85 percent in 2015.

Poor countries such as Guinea, Mongolia and Nigeria are seeing a high number of cases, she adds.

As NPR's Michaeleen Doucleff has reported, measles cases have generally seen a dramatic drop worldwide since the 1980s, from more than 4 million cases annually to less than 500,000.

Despite the increases in Europe, WHO says vaccination against measles is a success story. But 2017 had more than doubled that number. The U.S. saw 118 cases of measles in 2017, according to the CDC.

The measles rash is made up of red or brown blotches.