Monday March 18, 2019

Europe Suffers From a Severe Measles Outbreak

The U.N. agency on Monday called for better surveillance of the disease and increased immunization rates to prevent measles from becoming endemic.

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Measles
Doctor Roberto Ieraci vaccinates a woman in Rome as Italy battles one of its worst epidemics of measles in recent years. VOA

The World Health Organization says the number of measles cases in Europe jumped sharply during the first six months of 2018 and at least 37 people have died.

The U.N. agency’s European office said Monday more than 41,000 measles cases were reported in the region during the first half of the year — more than in all 12-month periods so far this decade.

The previous highest annual total was 23,927 cases in 2017. A year earlier, only 5,273 cases were reported.

The agency said half — some 23,000 cases — this year occurred in Ukraine, where an insurgency backed by Russia has been fighting the government for four years in the east in a conflict that has killed over 10,000 people.

France, Georgia, Greece, Italy, Russia and Serbia also had more than 1,000 measles infections each so far this year.

measles
An undated electron microscope image of a measles virus particle. VOA

Measles, among the world’s most contagious diseases, is a virus that’s spread in the air through coughing or sneezing. It can be prevented with a vaccine that’s been in use since the 1960s, but health officials say vaccination rates of at least 95 percent are needed to prevent epidemics.

Vaccine skepticism remains high in many parts of Europe after past immunization problems.

Measles typically begins with a high fever and also causes a rash on the face and neck. While most people who get it recover, measles is one of the leading causes of death among young children, according to the WHO.

Also Read: Meteor Shower Lights Up Bosnia, Southeastern Europe

Italy has introduced a new law requiring parents to vaccinate their children against measles and nine other childhood diseases. Romania also passed a similar bill, including hefty fines for parents who didn’t vaccinate their children.

The U.N. agency on Monday called for better surveillance of the disease and increased immunization rates to prevent measles from becoming endemic.(VOA)

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2.6 mn Children at Risk in Philippines Measles Outbreak

The Philippines outbreak comes after global measles cases increased by 48.4 per cent between 2017 and 2018, according to Unicef analysis

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Measles, WHO
A health worker vaccinates a toddler against measles in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. VOA

Health experts have warned that about 2.6 children in the Philippines were at risk due to a measles outbreak in the country as more people have died from the disease this year than in all of 2018, the media reported on Friday.

The outbreak has killed 261 people this year alone and most of the victims were children aged under five, a 547 per cent increase that the previous year with 202 deaths, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) found.

“It is completely unacceptable that children are still dying from measles in 2019,” CNN quoted Richard Gordon, chairman and CEO of the Philippines Red Cross, as saying on Friday.

The IFRC, with the Philippines’ Department of Health, is now aiming to immunise all unvaccinated children across seven of the “hardest-hit regions” over the next 12 months.

“We are drawing on the skills and dedication of our two million Red Cross volunteers to go door-to-door and neighbourhood-to-neighbourhood,” Gordon added.

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A child receives a measles vaccination in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Aug. 6, 2018. (VOA)

Filipinos’ confidence in vaccines fell dramatically after a 2014 scandal involving a new dengue fever vaccine, Dengvaxia.

Those with no history of dengue were at a greater risk of developing a more severe form of the disease after having the vaccination.

Rudy Constantino, Director of the Philippines Department of Health Disease Prevention and Control Bureau, told CNN that vaccine levels for measles, flu and other diseases dropped from 70 per cent in 2017 to 39 per cent in 2018 “because of the Dengvaxia scare”.

Also Read- Post-Pulwama, Kashmir Helpline Gets Over 500 Calls

Gundo Weiler, the World Health Organization representative to the Philippines, said the country was now suffering from a measles outbreak “every three to four years”, pointing to large-scale outbreaks in 2011 and 2014.

The Philippines outbreak comes after global measles cases increased by 48.4 per cent between 2017 and 2018, according to Unicef analysis. (IANS)