Outbreaks of measles increased 400% in Europe a year ago, with the World Health Organization (WHO) warning the highly contagious virus has regained a foothold due to immunization decline and vaccine supply problems.
The surge included large outbreaks (100 or more cases) in 15 of the 53 countries, but Ireland was not included. The countries worst affected were Romania, with 5,562 new cases, along with Italy and Ukraine, which experienced a combined total of 9,773 potentially fatal measles reports.
To prevent further outbreaks, a single MMR vaccine can be administered. "Over 20,000 cases of measles, and 35 lives lost in 2017 alone, are a tragedy we simply can not accept", says Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe.
A leading doctor has said the rising incidence of measles in Ireland could be due to a previous shortfall in vaccinations that has caught up on the population.
Romania, Italy and Ukraine reported the highest number of people affected, together accounting for over 70 percent of the entire number in Europe.
Measles is highly contagious, but easily preventable with a vaccine. The MMR vaccine provides immunisation against three deadly diseases: measles, mumps, and rubella.
Yet, it now says, "outbreaks will continue to occur until every susceptible child and adult is protected".
As medical professionals urge countries in the region to have their children vaccinated against the illness, blame for the outbreak is falling on a growing anti-vaccination movement around the world.
The WHO Regional Office for Europe has released new data for 2017 one day ahead of a health ministerial meeting on immunization in Montenegro on 20 February 2018. The law also imposed penalties on parents who did not vaccinate their children.
Studies have repeatedly refuted this claim, which were based on a paper by British former gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield.
He speculated that being injected with a "dead" form of the measles virus via vaccination causes disruption to intestinal tissue, leading to both of the disorders.
Nonetheless, MMR vaccination rates in the USA and the United Kingdom plummeted, until, in 2004 the then-editor of The Lancet Dr Richard Horton described Wakefield's research as "fundamentally flawed", adding he was paid by attorneys seeking lawsuits against vaccine manufacturers. The other two cases involve child siblings from Oslo.
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