Romania and Italy told to take urgent action on measles outbreak

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By Chris Harris
Romania and Italy told to take urgent action on measles outbreak

Romania and Italy have been urged to take urgent action to address a spike in measles cases.

There were 1,532 cases reported in Romania from August to January, compared with 463 in the previous six-month period, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Italy saw its number of cases treble between December and January, the latest month for which figures were available.

“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,” said Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO regional director for Europe. “Together we must make sure that the hard-earned progress made towards regional elimination is not lost.

“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 immunization needed to fully protect their populations.”

Both countries have immunisation rates below the 95 percent level WHO says is necessary to protect the wider population from an outbreak.

Europe is also a world leader when it comes to lacking confidence in vaccines.

In France, 40 percent of respondents to the Vaccine Confidence Project’s 2016 survey said they don’t think vaccines are safe, while around one-five of those those questioned in Italy and Romania mistrusted them.

The measles vaccine was invented in the 1960s, and by the 1980s its use was widespread.

But, decades later, the disease persists. North and South America were declared measles-free in September 2016, but WHO has postponed its eradication target for other regions.