News: Measles 'Elimination' Far Off as Outbreak in Europe Progresses

Measles 'Elimination' Far Off as Outbreak in Europe Progresses

Experts from the World Health Organization just expressed concern for the rising number of measles outbreaks across Europe. Despite a perfectly capable existing vaccine, "immunization coverage has dropped below the necessary threshold of 95%," causing the measles to spread throughout the European region.

The lack of routine immunization has led to the measles virus being steadily endemic in 14 countries, meaning it's regularly found in those areas without interrupted transmission periods. Seven of these countries hosted 474 of the 559 measles cases reported worldwide in January 2017—almost 85 percent of them.

Italy and Romania are the two countries with the largest outbreaks, with a combined number of over 4,000 cases since January 2016. Romania even had 17 deaths during this period. The deaths corresponded mainly to areas where "immunization coverage is especially low."

However, this does not mean largely immunized areas should lack concern for this issue, as WHO Regional Director for Europe Dr. Zsuzsanna Jakab pointed out in a press release:

Today's travel patterns put no person or country beyond the reach of the measles virus. Outbreaks will continue in Europe, as elsewhere, until every country reaches the level of immunization needed to fully protect their populations.

Measles was virtually eliminated from the US in 2000, but that does not render Americans safe from the virus. The rise of measles abroad combined with the backlash against vaccinations (thanks a bunch, Jenny McCarthy) leaves the US vulnerable to infection, especially from citizens traveling abroad and bringing the disease home.

Just last week, it was reported that someone on a flight from Minneapolis, Minnesota to Omaha, Nebraska on March 12 had the measles, and could have spread the disease to other passengers. It's not known yet if this passenger visited another country or not.

As long as the measles virus exists, maintenance of vaccinations within the global population is paramount.

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Cover image by Photographer's Mate 3rd Class Lamel J. Hinton/US Navy

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