The number of measles cases is skyrocketing in Europe and the disease is even surging in four countries previously considered to have eradicated it, including Greece, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Thursday.
“Re-establishment of measles transmission is concerning. If high immunization coverage is not achieved and sustained in every community, both children and adults will suffer unnecessarily and some will tragically die,” warned Gunter Pfaff, the head of the WHO’s European Regional Verification Commission for Measles and Rubella Elimination.
The WHO said there were 89,994 cases of measles in 48 European countries in just the first six months of 2019, more than double the number in the same period in 2018, when there were 44,175 cases.
This is already more than the 84,462 incidents of the disease that were reported for the entire year of 2018.
Based on data from 2018, the disease is no longer considered eliminated in the UK, Greece, the Czech Republic and Albania.
Measles is considered to be eliminated when there is no endemic disease transmission for 12 months or more in a specific geographic area.
While the disease is highly contagious, it can be completely prevented through a two-dose vaccine, but in recent months the WHO has sounded the alarm over current vaccination rates.
The UK reported 953 incidents of measles in the year 2018 and 489 for the first six months of 2019. Greece reported 2,193 cases in 2018 so far in 2019 there have been 28 incidents of the disease.
The nation of Albania reported 1,466 cases of measles in 2018 and 475 cases so far this year, while the Czech Republic reported 217 last year and more than double that number, a total of 569, so far in 2019.