ISTOCK, ALMIR1968There were 21,315 measles cases reported across Europe in 2017, four times as many as the previous year, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced yesterday (February 19). Of the people diagnosed in Europe, 35 died of the disease, which struck hardest in Romania, Italy, and Ukraine.
“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,” says Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe, in the WHO statement. The cases and deaths “are a tragedy we simply cannot accept,” she adds.
The announcement came ahead of a meeting of health ministers to discuss how to achieve goals set out in the European Vaccine Action Plan. Those include the elimination of measles and rubella.
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. In Italy, the outlet reports, vaccination rates had fallen to 85 percent in 2015.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last year warned international travelers to ensure they are vaccinated against measles.