Europe loses ground in effort to eliminate measles

  • Date: 29 August 2019

A "DRAMATIC RESURGENCE" of measles continues to threaten the health of susceptible individuals in Europe, according to a report by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The WHO report found that around 90,000 children and adults in the European region were infected with measles in the first half of 2019, which is double the number of cases reported for the same period in 2018 (44,175) and exceeds the total for 2018 (84,462).

Over 174,000 measles cases and over 100 measles-related deaths were reported by 49 of the 53 countries of the region in the 18-month period from January 2018 to June 2019. This prompted the WHO to activate a Grade 2 emergency response which allows mobilisation of human and financial resources to support the affected countries.

The European Regional Verification Commission for Measles and Rubella Elimination (RVC) has recently announced that (for the first time since the verification process began in the Region in 2012) four countries including the UK have lost their measles elimination status.

Professor Martin Marshall, Vice-Chair of the Royal College of GPs, commented: "It is disheartening to see these findings by the RVC at a time when we, and other countries across Europe, were on the way towards completely eradicating measles - a potentially deadly but entirely preventable disease.

"While take-up of the MMR vaccination across the UK is still high, it is not high enough, and we have actually seen a small decline in recent years. It is clear that we are still suffering from entirely debunked claims around MMR that were perpetuated in the nineties – and are now resurgent on social media and other online platforms.

"Work is continuing across the NHS to ensure messages about the safety, and life-saving nature of vaccinations are heard, and it is encouraging that WHO has increased its focus on measles elimination and upgraded action to address the challenges which have allowed this deadly virus to persist in countries including the UK.

"This, alongside a commitment by our government to tackle a wave of dangerous anti-vax messages being shared online - particularly via social media - will hopefully go a long way in helping the country get back on track and regain our measles-free status."

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