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Measles cases in Europe ‘highest in decade’

Despite rising immunisation rates, some countries have low take-up of the vaccine, the World Health Organisation said.

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Measles cases in Europe are the highest this decade, according to the World Health Organisation (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Measles cases in Europe are the highest this decade, according to the World Health Organisation (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Measles cases in Europe are the highest this decade, according to the World Health Organisation (Owen Humphreys/PA)

The number of people contracting measles in 2018 across Europe was the highest number for a decade, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said.

While more children in Europe are being vaccinated against measles than ever before, progress has been “uneven” between countries and individual countries have some patches where vaccine take-up is low, it said.

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(PA Graphics)

(PA Graphics)

PA

(PA Graphics)

Some 82,596 people in 47 of 53 countries contracted measles, the highest number this decade and three times the figure in 2017.

It is also 15 times a record low recorded in 2016.

A total of 72 children and adults died in 2018 following infection, the WHO said.

In England and Wales, Public Health England (PHE) data shows there were 913 cases of measles between January and October 2018 – the most recent data available.

Two adults died from measles in 2017 in the UK.

One was an immunosuppressed man who had caught measles abroad three years earlier, while the other was a woman who acquired her infection in the UK.

No UK deaths were reported in 2018.

Ukraine reported the highest number of measles cases last year across Europe, while more than 90% of cases were in 10 countries, including France, Italy and Greece.

While data indicate exceptionally high immunisation coverage at regional level, they also reflect a record number affected and killed by the diseaseDr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO

Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO regional director for Europe, said: “The picture for 2018 makes it clear that the current pace of progress in raising immunisation rates will be insufficient to stop measles circulation.

“While data indicate exceptionally high immunisation coverage at regional level, they also reflect a record number affected and killed by the disease.

“This means that gaps at local level still offer an open door to the virus.”

The 2018 surge in measles cases followed a year when European countries achieved their highest ever estimated coverage for the second dose of the measles vaccination – 90% – the WHO said.

Some 95% of children received the first dose of the vaccine.

PA