Thirty-five individuals have died in the past year from a wave of measles outbreaks across Europe, reported the World Health Organization.
A 6-year-old boy in Italy was the most recent fatality in the country that had logged over 3,300 measles cases.
Low Vaccination Rates
Romania had the most number of deaths at 31, with a death each in Germany and Portugal.
“Every death or disability caused by this vaccine-preventable disease is an unacceptable tragedy,” said Dr. Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO regional director for Europe, in a statement.
WHO is prioritizing outbreak control and striving for a high measles vaccination reach in European populations, Jakab added.
Measles is a highly contagious condition, but vaccination is seen to prevent its spread if done on 95 percent of the population. Those with low immunization coverage are feared to allow the spread of the virus among those who choose not to vaccinate, maintain little to no access to vaccines, or have underlying medical conditions, WHO explained.
Efforts To Contain Measles Outbreaks
Several nations have adopted measures to contain measles, including conducting school-entry checks and increasing routine vaccination coverage. WHO recommends two doses of measles-containing shot, such as the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR vaccine), to every eligible child.
Romania began a nationwide drive to enhance routine vaccination activities, while Italy imposed stricter measures such as increased documentation of suspected cases and providing post-exposure medication and vaccine.
The Italian government also considers having children vaccinated against 12 common diseases before being allowed to enroll in state-run schools.
Germany, too, is mulling stricter laws on immunizations.
Measles is communicated through direct contact and via air by coughing and sneezing. The virus stays active on infected areas for up to two hours.
The first signs of the infection typically include a high fever, runny nose, and cold-like symptoms. Tiny white spots on the cheeks’ insides may also manifest.
A rash develops after several days on the face and neck, followed by others on the limbs and the rest of the body. There is no treatment, although the vaccine can block infection in the first place.
The United States has also seen a climb in measles cases this year, or 108 cases reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as of middle of June. In 2016, a total of 70 cases were reported across the nation.
In recent outbreaks, travelers who got the virus overseas were seen to spread it to unvaccinated individuals.