PARIS: Europe saw a 400-percent increase in measles cases in 2017 compared to the previous year, affecting more than 21,000 people and causing 35 deaths, the World Health Organization (WHO)’s regional office for Europe said in a press release.
The spike included large outbreaks, meaning 100 or more cases, in 15 of the 53 countries in the region. It came as a blow, following a record low 5,273 cases in 2016.
Romania, Italy and Ukraine reported the highest number of people affected, together accounting for over 70 percent of the entire number in Europe.
In recent years, overall routine immunization coverage in those countries has declined and there were interruptions in vaccine supply, The Guardian reported.
“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,” WHO Regional Director for Europe Dr. Zsuzsanna Jakab said in the press release.
Measles, a highly contagious viral disease, can cause long-term damage or even kill patients. The most serious complications include blindness, encephalitis — an infection that causes brain swelling and can lead to deafness or learning difficulties, severe diarrhea and severe respiratory infections such as pneumonia.