Cases of measles in adults hit record high in the European region

Cases of measles in adults and children hit record high in the European region

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in the first six months of 2018 there were over 41,000 cases of measles in adults and children in the European Region.

The number of cases of measles in adults and children far exceeds previous reports from every other year this decade.

The highest annual total for measles cases between 2010 and 2017 was 23 927 for 2017, with the lowest being 5,273 for 2016. Monthly country reports also indicate that at least 37 people have died due to measles so far this year.

Poor progress towards tackling measles

The RVC has expressed concerns about insufficient disease surveillance and low immunisation coverage in some countries. It also highlighted the fact that chains of measles transmission continued for more than 12 months in some countries that had interrupted the endemic spread of the disease, reverting their status back to endemic.

“This partial setback demonstrates that every person who is not immune remains vulnerable no matter where they live,” says Dr Nedret Emiroglu, Director of the Division of Health Emergencies and Communicable Diseases at the WHO Regional Office for Europe.

“And every country must keep pushing to increase coverage and close immunity gaps, even after achieving interrupted or eliminated status.”

Call to action is required

Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe says: “We call on all countries to immediately implement broad, context-appropriate measures to stop further spread of this disease.

“Good health for all starts with immunisation, and as long as this disease is not eliminated we are failing to live up to our Sustainable Development Goal commitments.”

At least 95% of immunisation coverage with two doses of measles-containing vaccine is needed every year in every community, as well as efforts to reach children, adolescents and adults who missed routine vaccination in the past.

What is being done to tackle measles?

Response measures are being put in place, including enhanced routine and supplemental immunisation as well as heightened surveillance to quickly detect cases. WHO is working closely with Member States currently facing outbreaks to implement such measures and is also working with other countries to attain the 95% threshold.

Jakab concludes: “We can stop this deadly disease. But we will not succeed unless everyone plays their part: to immunize their children, themselves, their patients, their populations – and also to remind others that vaccination saves lives.”

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