Warning: Measles spreading across Europe

WHO warns low immunization rates leading to measles outbreaks, asks public to get immunized.

Chana Roberts ,

Doctors confer (Illustration)
Doctors confer (Illustration)

The World Health Organization (WHO) warned recently of a measles outbreak sweeping across Europe, in places where immunization rates have plummeted.

Recently, over 500 cases of measles have been reported in European countries.

Measles is a highly contagious disease for which a cure has not been developed. It can be prevented by two doses of the MMR vaccine.

In most developed countries, the "herd immunity" is said to be high enough to prevent outbreaks. However, there are still fourteen areas in which vaccination rates fall below the recommended 95%, in which the "herd" protects the remaining 5%, placing the local population at risk.

Out of 559 measles cases reported in January, 474 occurred in seven of the 14 non-immunized areas, which included parts of France, Germany, Poland, Switzerland, and the Ukraine, with the largest outbreaks in Italy and Romania.

In Romania, 3,400 cases were recorded since January 2016, and 17 people have died from the disease, which remains a leading cause of death globally.

Italy saw 238 cases in January 2017, and a total of 850 during 2016.

February also saw a sharp rise in measles cases.

"With steady progress towards elimination over the past two years, it is of particular concern hat measles cases are climbing in Europe," WHO Europe Regional Director Dr. Zsuzsanna Jakab said. "Today's ravel patterns put no person or country beyond the reach of the measles virus."

"Outbreaks will continue in Europe, as elsewhere, until every country reaches the level of immunization needed to fully protect their populations.

“I urge all endemic countries to take urgent measures to stop transmission of measles within their borders, and all countries that have already achieved this to keep up their guard and sustain high immunization coverage.

“Outbreaks will continue in Europe, as elsewhere, until every country reaches the level of immunization needed to fully protect their populations,” she added.

Anyone can get measles if they haven’t already had it, but it is more common in young children. Measles starts with cold like symptoms before the small, red-brown blotchy rash develops a few days later, and lasts a total of 7 to 10 days.

In some cases, measles can lead to serious complications.

Measles cases in Italy spiked earlier this year with the country reporting 238 cases in January.

Israel is included in the WHO's assessment of Europe, along with 52 other countries.