Measles cases in 2017 increased four-fold compared to 2016

Measles cases in 2017 increased four-fold compared to 2016
©CDC/Dr. Heinz F. Eichenwald

The number of measles cases has rebounded in the World Health Organization (WHO) European Region, with a substantial increase last year following a record low in 2016.

In 2017, there were a total of 21,315 measles cases and 35 deaths caused by the disease. This follows on from a record low number of 5,273 cases in 2016, according to newly released data from the WHO Regional Office for Europe.

The surge in cases last year included large outbreaks in 15 of the 53 countries in the region, with the highest numbers of affected people reported in Romania (5,562), Italy (5,006) and Ukraine (4,767).

Other countries to experience large outbreaks included:

  • Greece (967);
  • Germany (927);
  • Serbia (702);
  • Tajikistan (649);
  • France (520);
  • The Russian Federation (408);
  • Belgium (369);
  • United Kingdom (282);
  • Bulgaria (167);
  • Spain (152);
  • Czech Republic (146); and
  • Switzerland (105).

Actions taking place to stop the current outbreaks and prevent new ones include raising public awareness and immunising healthcare professionals and other adults at risk, as well as improving supply planning and logistics.

Elimination of measles is a priority goal

“Every new person affected by measles in Europe reminds us that unvaccinated children and adults, regardless of where they live, remain at risk of catching the disease and spreading it to others who may not be able to get vaccinated.

“Over 20,000 cases of measles, and 35 lives lost in 2017 alone, are a tragedy we simply cannot accept,” says WHO regional director for Europe Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab.

“Elimination of both measles and rubella is a priority goal that all European countries have firmly committed to, and a cornerstone for achieving the health-related Sustainable Development Goals,” Jakab continues.

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

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