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Measles cases soaring in Europe: WHO

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Health Desk: 20 February 2018: Europe has seen a massive surge in measles cases in 2017, which the World Health Organization says is a tragedy after a record low of 5,273 cases in 2016.

Cases increased by 400%, with more than 20,000 people affected and 35 deaths.

Fifteen European region countries, including the UK, had large outbreaks. Measles cases were highest in Romania, Italy, and Ukraine.

People shunning vaccination is part of the problem, say experts.

The WHO says there have been declines in overall routine immunization coverage, as well as consistently low coverage among some marginalized groups and interruptions in vaccine supply or underperforming disease surveillance systems.

Dr. Zsuzsanna Jakab, from the WHO, said: "Every new person affected by measles in Europe reminds us that unvaccinated children and adults, regardless of where they live, remain at risk of catching the disease and spreading it to others who may not be able to get vaccinated.

"This short-term setback cannot deter us from our commitment to be the generation that frees our children from these diseases once and for all."

The UK saw 282 cases in 2017, linked to the continuing outbreak in Europe. A few weeks ago, Public Health England warned about measles cases in several regions of England.

Measles is a highly infectious viral illness that can be deadly. Measles symptoms include a runny nose, sneezing and cough, sore, red eyes, a high temperature and, after a few days, a red-brown blotchy rash.