A measles epidemic has spread across Europe with the number of cases quadrupling over the past year. More than 20,000 people have been affected and 35 deaths have been recorded.
The spread across Europe
15 European countries have had large outbreaks, with the highest number of cases coming from Romania, Italy and Ukraine.
In Romania alone, there were 5,562 cases of measles last year due to a shortage of the vaccine and poor healthcare facilities.
In Italy, which had 5,006 cases in 2017, the numbers are high as a result of ‘anti-vax’ campaigns across the country. These campaigns have been highlighting the supposed risks of vaccination. This is a big topic that is being discussed at the current Italian elections.
Experts say that people deciding against having their children vaccinated is a big part of the problem.
Following the scare 20 years ago that the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine could be linked to autism, a large number of people decided to not get it. Despite this link later being discredited, the number of unvaccinated children continued to rise.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that there have been severe declines in overall routine immunisation and not just MMR.
The MMR vaccine is given as two doses to very young children and a booster is available in later life. To prevent outbreaks, WHO says that 95% of the population should be immunised. In the UK from 2016-17, this number was only at 91.6%.
When these unprotected people get measles, those who have had the vaccine still have a slight risk of contracting the disease.
The symptoms of measles are: runny nose, sneezing and coughing, high temperature and eventually a red-brown blotchy rash. If you think you have symptoms of measles, you should contact your doctor immediately. If left untreated, it can prove to be fatal.