According to a report by the WHO, the number of new measles infections in and around Europe has now reached the highest level seen in ten years. In 2018, data was released saying that over 82,000 people were infection.
Around 61% of these resulted in hospitalization, and a total of 72 people died from the disease last year. This was, as reported by the WHO, “the highest this decade”. The agency noted that the figures are “3 times the total reported in 2017 and 15 times the record low number of people affected in 2016.”
The majority of cases – an estimated 92% of all reports – were found in ten countries. These were Russia, Georgia, Greece, Albania, France, Israel, Serbia, Ukraine, Romania, and Albania. The remaining cases were spread across 47 of the 53 countries considered to be in the European region.
Furthermore, there have been outbreaks of the illness in the US, with cases being reported in New York and Washington recently. The CDC said in a statement that these cases began when travelers returned from European countries.
Washington State Department of Health said: “The strain D8 in Washington’s outbreak matches the strain from an ongoing Eastern European outbreak. This is consistent with testing from the first known case (a child) from this outbreak in WA. All of our cases match this strain”.
To add to the concerns, the WHO report found that there were very high numbers of children being vaccinated in Europe, which is the source of the outbreak. Although the accuracy of the figures have been disputed, reports from 2017 show 90% of children were given both doses of the measles vaccine.
Dr. Zsuzsanna Jakab, the WHO regional director for Europe, said in a statement: “The picture for 2018 makes it clear that the current pace of progress in raising immunization rates will be insufficient to stop measles circulation.”
“While data indicate exceptionally high immunization coverage at regional level, they also reflect a record number affected and killed by the disease. This means that gaps at [the] local level still offer an open door to the virus,”
“We cannot achieve healthier populations globally, as promised in WHO’s vision for the coming five years, if we do not work locally. We must do more and do it better to protect each and every person from diseases that can be easily avoided.”