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North Macedonia Declares National Measles Epidemic, Vows Increased Vaccinations

North Macedonian authorities say 11,000 preschool children have not been vaccinated in the country and that three infants have died due to complications from the disease. (illustrative photo)

Authorities in North Macedonia have declared a national measles epidemic after more than 900 cases of the disease were registered since the start of the year.

Health Ministry epidemiologist Vladimir Mikic said on April 16 that the country's vaccination efforts will be stepped up and that unvaccinated children would not be admitted to daycare centers.

Officials had previously declared a measles epidemic in six regions of the Western Balkan nation of 2.1 million people, including the capital, Skopje.

Measles is a preventable but highly contagious disease that can kill a child or leave it disabled for life.

Health experts in North Macedonia, like in many other countries, have expressed concerns about the so-called "anti-vax" movement spreading on social media and elsewhere that has raised fears among some parents that vaccinations can be harmful for children.

The country's Public Health Institute has said that more than 11,000 preschool children have not been vaccinated in North Macedonia and that three infants have died due to complications from the disease.

INFOGRAPHIC: Deadly Measles On The Rise
INFOGRAPHIC: Deadly Measles On The Rise

The World Health Organization (WHO) warned on April 15 that the number of measles cases around the world nearly quadrupled during the first three months of 2019 compared with the same period last year.

WHO noted that current outbreaks had been recorded in Ukraine, Georgia, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan as well as in several countries in Africa and Southeast Asia.

In 2017, the most recent year for which estimates are available, WHO said measles caused "close to 110,000 deaths" worldwide.

The UN agency warned that the disease was spreading "fast among clusters of unvaccinated people."

It said measles was "almost entirely preventable through two doses of a safe and effective vaccine."

With reporting by AP, Reuters, AFP, and dpa
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