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More measles cases reported in Europe in 2018 than any other year this decade

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More measles cases reported in Europe in 2018 than any other year this decade
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More than 82,000 people in Europe were infected with the measles in 2018, marking the highest number of cases reported in the region this decade, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The record numbers came despite the fact that more European children than ever before are being vaccinated against the highly-contagious infectious disease.

WHO said “uneven progress between and within countries” was to blame.

READ MORE: Measles ‘spreads like wildfire’ if children not vaccinated, says WHO expert

The disease, which is most common in young children, leads to symptoms including a high fever and white spots inside the mouth before developing into the "measles rash".

The most serious complications from severe measles include blindness, encephalitis (an infection that causes brain swelling), diarrhoea and dehydration, and severe respiratory infections, according to WHO.

The data released on Thursday shows that 82,596 people contracted the measles in 47 of 53 countries in the WHO-classified European Region between January and December last year.

Seventy-two children and adults died from the disease.

WHO said the historic annual figure was three times higher than that of 2017 and 15 times greater than the record low reported in 2016.

Ukraine recorded the highest number of measles cases in Europe in 2018, at 53,218.

France (2,913) and Italy (2,517) were also among the 10 most affected countries.

READ MORE: Which countries are driving Europe’s record measles outbreak?

“The picture for 2018 makes it clear that the current pace of progress in raising immunisation rates will be insufficient to stop measles circulation. This means that gaps at local level still offer an open door to the virus,” the WHO’s regional director for Europe, Zsuzsanna Jakab, said in a statement.

“We cannot achieve healthier populations globally, as promised in WHO’s vision for the coming five years, if we do not work locally. We must do more and do it better to protect each and every person from diseases that can be easily avoided.”

WHO urged European countries to “target their interventions to those places and groups where immunisation gaps persist".