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First half of 2018 sees doubling in the cases of measles found in record-breaking 2017

First half of 2018 sees doubling in the cases of measles found in record-breaking 2017
A record-breaking 41,000 cases of measles have been registered in Europe so far this year, with experts putting the blame squarely on people refusing to get themselves or their children vaccinated against the disease.

The first six months of 2018 saw more than 41,000 people infected across the continent, resulting in 37 deaths, according to new statistics provided by the World Health Organization (WHO). The figure is almost double the then-record breaking number of 23,927 cases recorded in 2017.

Measles cases measured in 2016 meanwhile had registered a decade-low, with only 5,273 instances recorded.

Hardest hit with outbreaks has been Ukraine, with more than 23,000 affected. Other countries with instances in excess of 1,000 measles cases include France, Georgia, Greece, Russia, Serbia, and Italy.

Measles is a highly infectious viral disease which can be spread through coughing or sneezing. Those affected can suffer from high fever, coughing, a runny nose, sore red eyes and a blotchy red rash, with infections usually lasting between 7-10 days.

While most infected usually make a complete recovery, complications it can cause include pneumonia, meningitis, hepatitis, and encephalitis (infection and swelling of the brain).

Catching the disease is rare once immunized with the MMR vaccine, however, dubious allegations of side effects caused by the vaccination – such as causing autism – has resulted in some parents avoiding getting their children vaccinated.

Noting a particularly high level of mistrust in Europe against vaccinations, Dr Pauline Paterson of the London School of Tropical Medicine said: “The reasons for non-vaccination can vary from issues of vaccine access, a lack of perceived need to vaccinate, and concerns around the safety of vaccination – in 2016 the Vaccine Confidence Project found that the European region was the most skeptical in the world on vaccine safety."

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"With a vaccine preventable disease, one case is one too many, and the numbers of measles cases so far this year is astounding," she added.

Although measles vaccination rates hit 90 per cent of children in 2017, up from 88 per cent the previous year, the WHO have said that immunization rates against the disease need to reach 95 percent in order to guarantee the so-called “herd immunity” required to stop the spread of disease.

Warning that 95 percent coverage needs to be at the community level “not just the national level,” Dr. Mark Muscat, who heads WHO's Vaccine-preventable Diseases and Immunization program said there was a minority of parents who were not getting their children vaccinated.

“The great majority of parents get their children vaccinated according to their country’s national immunization schedule to protect them from serious vaccine-preventable diseases but there is a minority that is still not vaccinating their children,” he said.

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