WHO expresses concern over measles outbreak in Europe

| By | Vaccines, WHO
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Over 41 000 children and adults in the WHO European Region have been infected with measles in the first 6 months of 2018. The total number for this period far exceeds the 12-month totals reported for every other year this decade.

So far, the highest annual total for measles cases between 2010 and 2017 was 23 927 for 2017, and the lowest was 5273 for 2016. Monthly country reports also indicate that at least 37 people have died due to measles so far this year.

Seven countries in the Region have seen over 1000 infections in children and adults this year (France, Georgia, Greece, Italy, the Russian Federation, Serbia and Ukraine). Ukraine has been the hardest hit, with over 23 000 people affected; this accounts for over half of the regional total. Measles-related deaths have been reported in all of these countries, with Serbia reporting the highest number of 14.

According to the latest assessment by the European Regional Verification Commission for Measles and Rubella Elimination (RVC), released, 43 of the Region’s 53 Member States have interrupted the endemic spread of measles and 42 have interrupted rubella (based on 2017 reporting).

At the same time, the RVC expressed concerns about inadequate disease surveillance and low immunization coverage in some countries. It also concluded that chains of measles transmission continued for more than 12 months in some countries that had interrupted the endemic spread of the disease, reverting their status back to endemic.

WHO is working closely with Member States currently facing outbreaks to implement response measures, including enhanced routine and supplemental immunization as well as heightened surveillance to quickly detect cases. WHO is also working with other countries to attain the 95% threshold.

All 53 countries in the Region will review midterm progress towards the goals of the European Vaccine Action Plan at the 68th session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe, taking place in Rome, Italy, on 17–20 September 2018.