Sun. Jun 16th, 2024

Urgent health warning issued as measles rampages through Europe

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell Jun6,2024

The number of measles cases in Europe continues to soar and could surpass the 2023 record, warned the World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday who stressed the importance of vaccination.

56,634 measles cases and four deaths have been recorded in 45 of the 53 member countries of the WHO European region, which extends to Central Asia, during the first three months of 2024, according to the organization’s figures.

This is just 5,000 fewer than for the entire year of 2023, during which 61,070 cases – and 13 deaths – were reported across 41 countries. It is also 60 times more than in 2022 when 941 measles cases were reported.

“Even a single case of measles should be an urgent call to action,” urged WHO Europe Director Hans Kluge in a statement.

“I urge all countries to take immediate measures, even when overall vaccination coverage is high, to vaccinate vulnerable people, fill immunity gaps and thus prevent the virus from taking hold in any community,” he added.

Measles can lead to serious respiratory and neurological complications in children.

It mainly affects children, but not exclusively. In 2023, nearly half of the cases involved children under five years old.

“This reflects the accumulation of children who did not receive routine vaccinations against measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases during the pandemic,” noted WHO in a statement quoting the presence of cases in 27 of the 33 members where the virus had been eliminated.

Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Russia are the most affected countries with more than 36,000, 28,000 and 18,000 cases between April 2023 and March 2024. With 1,008 cases, the UK is ahead of Austria (456 cases).

“Even one case of measles should be an urgent call to action,” noted Dr Kluge. “No one should suffer the consequences of this devastating but easily preventable disease. I applaud every country that has accelerated their efforts to interrupt transmission through catch-up vaccination.”

Nearly half of reported cases in 2023 occurred among children under 5, reflecting an accumulation of children who missed routine vaccinations against measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases during the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with slow recovery in vaccination coverage in 2021 and 2022.

“An increase in measles cases is a clear sign of a breakdown in immunization coverage. As cases of measles continue to surge, we need urgent government action to both strengthen health systems and implement effective public health measures to secure protection for all children from this dangerous but preventable disease,” said Regina De Dominicis, UNICEF Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia.

Among children under five years of age who contracted measles in 2023, more than three quarters had not received any measles vaccination doses. Around 99 percent of these children did not receive two doses of measles-containing vaccine.

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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