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The number of measles cases in Europe drastically increased in 2018, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Cases of the contagious viral disease have been rising globally, and in Europe, measles cases jumped from around 25,000 in 2017 to over 82,000 in 2018. Measles-related deaths also increased from 42 in 2017 to 72 the following year.
The country that had the most number of measles patients was Ukraine, with over 53,000 recorded cases. This figure is 10 times greater than the number of people affected in Serbia, which had the second highest number of cases.
For decades, measles outbreaks had been prevented worldwide through vaccination—a process in which a person is injected with a weakened form of a disease-causing virus. This way, the body can develop immunity against the virus’ stronger form.
Because an international conflict involving Ukraine affected the country’s economic and health developments, vaccine supply was low. This significantly decreased Ukraine’s vaccination rate in the country in 2016.
The WHO says efforts at vaccination have improved in the last two years, but institutions are still not covering regions fast enough to prevent the disease’s spread in many countries. Around 95% of a population should be vaccinated to prevent measles cases in a community from proliferating.
To address the rise in measles cases, the WHO recommends timely distribution of vaccines in European countries. Governments should also make sure to cover areas that they previously overlooked. Also, health organizations should launch campaigns to gain the people’s confidence and dispel any fears surrounding vaccines.