Dramatic increase in measles infections in Europe needs consistent action

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Symptoms of measles may include rash, high fever, cough, runny nose, and red, watery eyes. It can cause pneumonia, hepatitis, swelling in the brain, blindness. In some cases, complications can be life-threatening.The health agency said more than 41,000 children and adults were infected with the highly contagious disease between January and June. “We are seeing a dramatic increase in infections and extended outbreaks,” Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO regional director for Europe, said in a statement. France, Georgia, Greece, Italy, Russia, Serbia, and Ukraine all recorded more than 1,000 measles cases in the first half of 2018. Ukraine was hardest-hit, with 23,000 infections. The most fatalities were reported in Serbia, where 14 people died.

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Measles was virtually eliminated in the U.S. after the vaccine became widely available in the 1960s, but outbreaks have flared in recent years. The illness is highly contagious and can spread rapidly among people who didn’t get the MMR vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps and rubella. The WHO called for better surveillance and increased immunization rates to prevent the disease from becoming endemic. While European childhood vaccination rates increased slightly to 90 percent in 2017, large disparities remain at the local level, according to the WHO.

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