Countries around the world are seeing a resurgence of measles cases this spring, and international travel guarantees outbreaks don’t stay isolated to one community for very long. That’s the key takeaway from studies and reports published today that look at ongoing outbreaks in Europe, Africa, and the United States.

WHO boosts measles response in Europe

Yesterday, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) European regional office announced it was stepping up outbreak response across the continent, where more than 100,000 measles cases and 90 measles-related deaths have been recorded since January 2018.

“We have observed an unprecedented upsurge in people sick with this preventable disease, and too many have lost their lives to it,” said Dorit Nitzan, MD, acting regional emergency director at the WHO Regional Office for Europe. “This is unacceptable and we need to be bolder and scale up our response to the next level. I am proud to see that different parts and levels of WHO are intensifying their combined efforts to stop these outbreaks.”

The WHO said persistent pockets of Europe remain unvaccinated or under-vaccinated, which has allowed the virus to take hold in certain countries, such as Romania, France, and Italy.

Measles is highly contagious — more than 90% of people without immunity who are exposed to measles will contract the virus. Vaccination coverage must hold at 95% to eliminate transmission.

Today the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) released March statistics on measles across the European Union (EU). A total of 1,548 cases were reported in 22 countries, an increase compared to the first 2 months of 2019.

France, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, and Germany had the highest case counts with 295, 248, 219, 188, 185, and 123 cases reported during March, respectively, the ECDC said.

Ninety percent of all European cases recorded in 2018 and 2019 occurred in case-patients who were unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated.

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