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24 August 2018, 09:47 | Melissa Porter
Record Measles Outbreak in European Union Causes Dozens of Deaths
The UK has reported 760 cases so far this year - the eighth highest in the continent and already more than twice the number of cases reported in all of 2017. Measles-related deaths are usually caused by complications associated with the disease. In 2016, fewer than 6,000 people in the European Union were reported to have come down with the infectious disease.
"Following the decade's lowest number of cases in 2016, we are seeing a dramatic increase in infections and extended outbreaks", Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO regional director for Europe, said in a statement.
Measles cases have hit a record high in Europe, with the number so far this year already nearly twice last year's total.
The MMR vaccine prevents infection but due to discredited research 20 years ago which linked MMR to autism has caused some people to not trust the vaccine and therefore not use it.
To put these worrying statistics into perspective, in 2017 - which previously held the title as the worst year in a decade - just under 24,000 cases were reported for the whole year.
The measles virus can spread quickly by coughing, sneezing or personal contact with infected nose or throat secretions.
Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at PHE, said: "The majority of cases we are seeing are in teenagers and young adults who missed out on their MMR vaccine when they were children". The upper house of Italy's parliament recently voted to suspend for a year a requirement that all schoolchildren in the country be vaccinated, including against measles.
Ukraine and Serbia claim the highest measles rates across the European Union, with Ukraine at more than 23,000 cases so far this year, per Bloomberg.
To prevent outbreaks, World Health Organization says 95% of the population should be immunised.
Vaccine skepticism remains high in many parts of Europe after past immunization problems. "The best protection is to be fully vaccinated with two doses of the MMR (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella) vaccine", commented public health doctor, Dr Ruth McDermott.
But hypervigilant we must remain as responsible parents, a crucial mindset illustrated by new information this week about flu and preventable childhood diseases. Adults under the age of 40 who have not had measles, or have not received two doses of MMR, should contact their GP to get the vaccine.
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