Holidaymakers are warned of a rise in measles in Europe as cases reach a 10-year high with more than 82,000 taken ill
- Some 82,596 people in 47 of 53 countries contracted measles last year
- This is 15 times the number for 2016 when measles cases hit a record low
- The number of measles cases across Europe hit a ten-year high last year
- More children in Europe are being vaccinated against measles than ever before
The number of people contracting measles in 2018 across Europe was the highest number for a decade.
Some 82,596 cases were recorded across the continent – three times the figure in 2017, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said.
Holidaymakers have been warned to ensure they are up to date with the MMR jab – and not just think about travel-related vaccines.
While record numbers are being vaccinated in Europe, progress in closing gaps ‘will be insufficient to stop measles circulation’, the WHO warned [File photo]
The WHO said more children in Europe are being vaccinated against measles than ever before.
But warned progress has been ‘uneven’ between countries and individual countries have some patches where vaccine take-up is low, it said.
It is also 15 times a record low recorded in 2016.
A total of 72 children and adults died in 2018 following infection, the WHO said.
In England and Wales, Public Health England (PHE) data shows there were 913 cases of measles between January and October 2018 – the most recent data available.
Two adults died from measles in 2017 in the UK.
The World Health Organisation said 82,596 contracted the disease – three times the total for 2017 and 15 times 2016’s record low [File photo]
WHAT IS MEASLES, WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS AND HOW CAN YOU CATCH IT?
Measles is a highly contagious viral infection that spreads easily from an injected person by coughing, sneezing or even just breathing.
Symptoms develop between six and 19 days after infection, and include a runny nose, cough, sore eyes, a fever and a rash.
The rash appears as red and blotchy marks on the hairline that travel down over several days, turning brown and eventually fading.
Some children complain of disliking bright lights or develop white spots with red backgrounds on their tongue.
In one in 15 cases, measles can cause life-threatening complications including pneumonia, convulsions and encephalitis.
Dr Ava Easton, chief executive of the Encephalitis Society told MailOnline: ‘Measles can be very serious.
‘[It] can cause encephalitis which is inflammation of the brain.
‘Encephalitis can result in death or disability.’
Treatment focuses on staying hydrated, resting and taking painkillers, if necessary.
Measles can be prevented by receiving two vaccinations, the first at 13 months old and the second at three years and four months to five years old.
Source: Great Ormond Street Hospital
One was an immunosuppressed man who had caught measles abroad three years earlier, while the other was a woman who acquired her infection in the UK.
No UK deaths were reported in 2018.
Ukraine reported the highest number of measles cases last year across Europe, while more than 90 per cent of cases were in 10 countries, including France, Italy and Greece.
WHERE THE MOST CASES RECORDED IN EUROPE IN 2018?
Russian Federation: 2,256
Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO regional director for Europe, said: ‘The picture for 2018 makes it clear that the current pace of progress in raising immunisation rates will be insufficient to stop measles circulation.
‘While data indicate exceptionally high immunisation coverage at regional level, they also reflect a record number affected and killed by the disease.
‘This means that gaps at local level still offer an open door to the virus.’
The 2018 surge in measles cases followed a year when European countries achieved their highest ever estimated coverage for the second dose of the measles vaccination – 90 per cent – the WHO said.
Some 95 per cent of children received the first dose of the vaccine.
Ukraine had the most cases, with a total of 72 dying from the illness across Europe.
The most recent data for England and Wales shows 913 cases between January and October 2018.
While record numbers are being vaccinated in Europe, progress in closing gaps ‘will be insufficient to stop measles circulation’, the WHO warned.
In a warning to holidaymakers, Public Health England said: ‘We often think about what travel-related vaccines we might need but it’s also important to check that we are up to date with routine vaccinations like MMR.’
|COUNTRY||POPULATION||CASES OF MEASLES|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||3,503,554||89|
|Republic of Moldova||4,041,065||340|
|The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia||2,085,051||64|
IS ANDREW WAKEFIELD’S DISCREDITED AUTISM RESEARCH TO BLAME FOR LOW MEASLES VACCINATION RATES?
Andrew Wakefield’s discredited autism research has long been blamed for a drop in measles vaccination rates
In 1995, gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield published a study in The Lancet showing children who had been vaccinated against MMR were more likely to have bowel disease and autism.
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.
After a 1998 paper further confirmed this finding, Wakefield said: ‘The risk of this particular syndrome [what Wakefield termed ‘autistic enterocolitis’] developing is related to the combined vaccine, the MMR, rather than the single vaccines.’
At the time, Wakefield had a patent for single measles, mumps and rubella vaccines, and was therefore accused of having a conflict of interest.
Nonetheless, MMR vaccination rates in the US and the UK 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 Lancet formally retracted Wakefield’s research paper in 2010.
Three months later, the General Medical Council banned Wakefield from practicing medicine in Britain, stating his research had shown a ‘callous disregard’ for children’s health.
On January 6 2011, The British Medical Journal published a report showing that of the 12 children included in Wakefield’s 1995 study, at most two had autistic symptoms post vaccination, rather than the eight he claimed.
At least two of the children also had developmental delays before they were vaccinated, yet Wakefield’s paper claimed they were all ‘previously normal’.
Further findings revealed none of the children had autism, non-specific colitis or symptoms within days of receiving the MMR vaccine, yet the study claimed six of the participants suffered all three.