More Than 34,000 Measles Infections Recorded In Europe So Far This Year, WHO Says
Apparently, the US isn’t the only country experiencing one of the worst measles outbreaks in decades (though it might be the only country that had at one time in the not-too-distant past declared the disease to be eradicated).
The WHO warned on Tuesday that Europe has recorded a total of 34,300 measles cases in 42 countries, putting the region on track to record more than 200,000 cases in 2019, more than double the roughly 80,000 cases reported last year, which was nearly triple the number of cases reported in 2017, according to Reuters.
So far, the vast majority of cases have been in Ukraine, which recently completed a contentious election held against the backdrop of a still-simmering conflict in the Eastern part of the country.
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Despite rising vaccination rates, the WHO said large gaps in coverage in troubled areas like Ukraine, Albania and Romania have contributed greatly to the outbreak.
“Although the European Region achieved its highest ever estimated coverage for the second dose of measles vaccination in 2017 (90%),” the WHO said, “countries with measles outbreaks have experienced a range of challenges in recent years including a decline or stagnation in overall routine immunization coverage in some cases, low coverage at subnational level or among some marginalized groups and immunity gaps in older populations.”
Meanwhile, in the US, CDC officials have confirmed an additional 60 cases of measles have been diagnosed since late last month, bringing the total to more than 760, according to NBC News.
The WHO added that if the response isn’t timely enough, the virus will find its way into more pockets of vulnerable individuals, and could eventually spread to more countries, or even beyond the European region.
“If outbreak response is not timely and comprehensive, the virus will find its way into more pockets of vulnerable individuals and potentially spread to additional countries within and beyond the region,” it said in a statement.
“Every opportunity should be used to vaccinate susceptible children, adolescents and adults,” the organization added.
The death toll across the region has climbed to 13, with most of the deaths occurring in Ukraine.
UNICEF published a report last month where it found that 20 million children a year missed out on measles vaccines across the world in the past eight years, creating the circumstances for the current outbreak.