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Measles Cases Rise Across Europe, WHO and UNICEF issue Warning

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Measles Cases Rise Across Europe, WHO and UNICEF issue Warning

(CTN News) – Measles rates continue to rise across Europe, with the number of cases registered this year on track to exceed the total number of cases reported in 2023, WHO and UNICEF said today.

According to the most recent available statistics, 56,634 measles infections and four fatalities were officially reported in 45 of 53 countries in the WHO European Region during the first three months of 2024. In 2023, 41 countries reported 61,070 cases and 13 deaths.

Measles has a terrible impact on children’s health, with young children being particularly vulnerable to serious consequences. High hospitalization rates and long-term immune system weakness leave youngsters more susceptible to various infectious diseases.

More than half of people infected with measles in the WHO European Region in 2023 required hospitalization, highlighting the severe burden on individuals, families, and health-care systems.

“Even one case of measles should be an urgent call to action,” stated Dr. Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe. “No one should have to bear the repercussions of this horrible but readily preventable disease.

Measles Resurgence In The US

I applaud every government that has stepped up its efforts to halt transmission through catch-up immunization. I urge all countries, even those with high overall immunization coverage, to take quick action to vaccinate the vulnerable, eliminate immunity gaps, and prevent the virus from infecting any community.

Nearly half of all reported cases in 2023 were among children under the age of five, indicating an accumulation of children who missed routine vaccinations against measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases during the COVID-19 pandemic, combined with a slow recovery in vaccination coverage in 2021 and 2022.

“An increase in measles cases is a clear indication of a breakdown in immunization coverage. As measles cases continue to rise, we require immediate government action to strengthen health systems and implement effective public health measures to protect all children from this dangerous but preventable disease,” said Regina De Dominicis, UNICEF Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia.

Over three-quarters of children under five who contracted measles in 2023 did not receive measles immunization shots. Approximately 99 percent of these youngsters did not receive two doses of measles-containing vaccination, which provides the necessary protection.

Measles cases are increasing globally.

Measles cases are increasing globally. In 2023, there were more than 300,000 measles cases worldwide, and the data recorded in 2024 indicate that the total for the year will match or exceed that of 2023.

The virus is frequently imported between countries and continents, and outbreaks of this highly contagious disease will occur anywhere it finds pockets of unvaccinated or under-vaccinated people.

Countries that do not currently have measles cases or outbreaks should proactively plan and prepare for any such importation to prevent the virus from spreading within and beyond their borders.

Countries currently experiencing outbreaks must continue to vaccinate all susceptible individuals, increase case finding and contact tracing, and use epidemiological data to identify gaps in vaccination coverage so that programs can protect affected communities and prevent future outbreaks.

UNICEF and WHO, and other regional and global partners will continue to assist governments’ efforts.

Measles is one of the world’s most contagious illnesses, transmitted when an infected person breathes, coughs, or sneezes. The virus can be active and contagious in the air or on infected surfaces for up to 2 hours.

Anyone who is not immune can become infected. The most apparent sign is a large rash, but other problems include blindness, encephalitis, severe diarrhea and dehydration, ear infections, and pneumonia.

Measles cases and outbreaks are reported in 27 of the 33 Member States of the WHO European Region, where endemically circulating measles has been declared eliminated by WHO. These countries may lose their designation if the current measles virus circulation lasts more than 12 months.

Arsi Mughal is a staff writer at CTN News, delivering insightful and engaging content on a wide range of topics. With a knack for clear and concise writing, he crafts articles that resonate with readers. Arsi's pieces are well-researched, informative, and presented in a straightforward manner, making complex subjects accessible to a broad audience. His writing style strikes the perfect balance between professionalism and casual approachability, ensuring an enjoyable reading experience.

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