Europe is losing ground in the fight against measles according to a new report released by the World Health Organisation.
The report warns that falling immunisation rates and the spread of misinformation online is leading to a reemergence of the potentially fatal disease in countries that were once thought to have eliminated measles.
For the first time since the WHO commenced a European verification process in 2012, four countries in the region have lost their measles elimination status.
The UK, Greece, Albania and Czech Republic have all seen the disease's infection rate increase in their populations. This means the four nations have had their respective measles status' change from 'eliminated' to 're-emerged'.
According to the WHO, these increasing outbreaks should alarm health experts not just in Europe, but globally.
“The re-establishment of measles transmission is concerning. If high immunisation coverage is not achieved and sustained in every community, both children and adults will suffer unnecessarily and some will tragically die,” says Dr Günter Pfaff, who lead this year's verification study in Europe.
Snapshot across the continent
For the wider European region, 35 countries are now considered to have achieved or sustained measles elimination (compared to 37 for 2017), two have interrupted the endemic transmission of measles and 12 remain endemic for measles.
“Great efforts to control this highly contagious disease have brought us a long way towards regional elimination. However, ongoing measles outbreaks demonstrate that more is needed. Through activation of the emergency response," said Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe.
"WHO has increased its focus on measles elimination and upgraded its action. This is the time and opportunity to address any underlying health system, social determinants and societal challenges that may have allowed this deadly virus to persist in this region,” he said.