Health

WHO 'taken aback' by measles outbreaks

MMR vaccination Image copyright SPL

Measles vaccinations must be immediately stepped up across Europe and central Asia after a series of outbreaks, the World Health Organization says.

Officials say they have been "taken aback" by more than 22,000 cases in 2014 and the first months of this year.

The WHO demands that countries control the outbreaks with "no exception".

It says the surges threaten the goal of eliminating measles in the region by the end of 2015.

Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO regional director for Europe, said: "When we consider that over the past two decades we have seen a reduction of 96% in the number of measles cases in the European region, and that we are just a step away from eliminating the disease, we are taken aback by these numbers.

"We must collectively respond, without further delay, to close immunization gaps.

"It is unacceptable that, after the last 50 years' efforts to make safe and effective vaccines available, measles continues to cost lives, money and time."

Country Number of cases
Kyrgyzstan 7,477
Bosnia and Herzegovina 5,340
Russian Federation 3,247
Georgia 3,291
Italy 1,674
Germany 583
Kazakhstan 537

Refusal to vaccinate

According to the organisation, a growing number of parents are refusing to vaccinate their children or are facing barriers in getting the immunisations they need.

Dr Nedret Emiroglu, from the WHO, says: "The priority is now to control current outbreaks through immunisation activities targeting people at risk,

"At the same time, all countries, with no exception, need to keep a very high coverage of regular measles vaccination, so that similar outbreaks won't happen again in our region, and measles can be eliminated once and for all."

The news comes after an 18-month-old boy died of measles in Berlin, sparking a nationwide debate about whether immunisations should be made compulsory.

In California, the department of public health has reported an outbreak of measles with more than 100 registered cases so far. Most of those showing symptoms of the disease were not vaccinated.

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