Families travelling to Europe this summer are being warned to be aware of a ‘Highly Contagious’ measles outbreak sweeping through the continent according to the World Health Organisation.
Measles is a highly contagious disease that can be prevented by having the MMR vaccination, available on the NHS. The vaccine is given as a single dose and protects against measles, mumps and rubella.
It is feared that low immunisation numbers throughout Europe is to be blamed for the outbreak with up to 14 countries falling behind on the target of vaccinations delivered.
In January this year of the 559 measles cases reported, 474 were recorded in just seven of the 14 countries that are below the 95% immunisation rate – France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Romania, Switzerland and Ukraine, many of these a firm favourite for families to visit this summer.
Early numbers available for February indicate new infections are continuing to rise, the WHO warned.
Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, the WHO’s regional director for Europe, said: “With steady progress towards elimination over the past two years, it is of particular concern that measles cases are climbing in Europe.
“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 immunisation needed to fully protect their populations.
“I urge all endemic countries to take urgent measures to stop transmission of measles within their borders, and all countries that have already achieved this to keep up their guard and sustain high immunisation coverage.
“Together we must make sure that the hard-earned progress made towards regional elimination is not lost.”
WHAT IS MEASLES?
Measles is a highly infectious viral illness that can be very unpleasant and sometimes lead to serious complications.
It starts with cold like symptoms before a rash develops a few days later.
The rash looks like small, red-brown blotches and can make a person feel very unwell.
Anyone can get measles if they haven’t been vaccinated or they haven’t had it before.
It usually clears in 7 to 10 days but can lead to other serious complications.
About one in every 5,000 people will die from measles.
It’s now uncommon in the UK because of the effectiveness of vaccination.