December 5, 2011

WHO Issues Warning Over European Measles Outbreaks

More than 26,000 cases of measles and 115 outbreaks of the disease have been reported across 36 different European countries in 2011, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported on Friday.

Furthermore, France had the largest number of reported measles cases with more than 14,000, according to statistics published in the December 2 edition of the Weekly Epidemiological Record (WER). BBC News also noted that 83% of all cases were in Western European countries, with slightly less than 1,000 confirmed measles cases in England and Wales combined.

"These occurred predominantly among older children and young adults who had not been vaccinated or whose vaccination history was unknown," the WHO report said. "The primary reason for the increased transmission and outbreaks of measles in the region is failure to vaccinate."

The British news organization also notes that measles outbreaks have resulted in nine European deaths so far this year, as well as nearly 7,300 hospitalizations. The WHO has also linked measles outbreaks in several other countries, including Australia, Brazil, and Canada, to European cases.

"The increase in measles in European countries reveals a serious challenge to achieving the regional measles elimination goal by 2015," Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO regional director for Europe, told the BBC on December 2. "Every country in the European region must take the opportunity now to raise coverage amongst susceptible populations, improve surveillance and severely reduce measles virus circulation before the approaching measles high season."

In order to eliminate measles within the next four years -- a goal that was adopted during the 60th meeting of the Regional Committee for Europe in September 2010, according to the WHO -- the demand for vaccines will need to be increased in order to achieve and maintain 95% coverage of the population. They also called for the implementation of more effective measures to control outbreaks and increased surveillance to more quickly identify cases and outbreaks of measles in the future.

By age, 12,882 of those measles cases (49.4%) occurred in people 15 years of age or other, and a full 25% of them (6,527) were among youngsters under the age of five.

Forty-five percent (11,763) cases were among those who had not received immunization, and another 45.4% (11,825) cases of measles involved those whose vaccination history was unknown, the WHO reported.


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