Romanian Measles Epidemic Worst in Europe

Romanian Measles Epidemic Worst in Europe

Measles cases across Europe increased by 400% in 2017 with more than 20,000 people affected and 35 deaths.

As of the end of 2016, 42 of the 53 countries in the WHO Europe Region had successfully halted endemic measles transmission.

However, most measles-related deaths are caused by complications associated with the disease, and are more common in those under the age of five and adults over the age of 30.

"Over 20,000 cases of measles, and 35 lives lost in 2017 alone, are a tragedy we simply can not accept", commented Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO regional director for Europe. "Over 20,000 cases of measles, and 35 lives lost in 2017 alone, are a tragedy we simply can not accept", explained Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO regional director for Europe.

Romania and Italy reported the most cases with 5,562 and 5,006 cases respectively. "This short-term setback can not deter us from our commitment to be the generation that frees our children from these diseases once and for all".

NBC notes that measles is highly infectious, affecting 90 percent of unvaccinated people exposed to it, and that to control the disease, 95 percent of a population must either be immunized or previously infected with the virus. The CDC has issued travel advisories about Europe, reminding Americans to make sure they are up to date on the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.

There has also been a surge in outbreaks across the region - with Greece and Germany reporting more than 900 cases each.

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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 fewer than 500,000.

The NHS website notes: "There has been some controversy about whether the MMR vaccine might cause autism, following a 1998 study by Dr Andrew Wakefield". The MMR vaccine is given for free and forms part of the basic immunisation programme offered to all children born in Malta.

But, his work has since been discredited, and he was struck off as a doctor in the UK.

The biggest outbreaks recorded past year were in Romania and Italy. The WHO is concerned by low rates of immunisation against the disease.

Measles is resurging in some European nations, partly thanks to decreased immunization rates encouraged by the anti-vaccination movement.

All of these were in the final months of the year.

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