Measles cases in Europe are soaring, with four countries losing their elimination status due to outbreaks, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Cases of the highly contagious yet preventable disease climbed to nearly 90,000 in 48 European countries in the first half of this year, more than double last year’s total number, the WHO said in a report published on August 29.
Nearly 80 percent of the cases were recorded in four countries through June: Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Georgia, and Russia.
Ukraine, which accounts for about 60 percent of the cases, is implementing a robust response, said Siddhartha Datta from the WHO’s regional office in Europe, including “school-based vaccination, high-risk vaccination of military recruits, and health care workers.”
Losing their elimination status were Britain, Greece, the Czech Republic, and Albania, based on 2018 data.
“Each of these countries are examples that have extremely high national vaccination coverage,” said Kate O’Brien, director of the WHO’s immunization department. “So, these are not examples of countries that have particularly weak [health-care] systems.”
Measles is a potentially fatal illness that causes coughing, rashes, and fever, but it is easily preventable with vaccination.
Close to 365,000 measles cases have been reported worldwide this year, the WHO said, almost three times as many as in the first half of 2018.