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Europe loses ground in efforts to eliminate measles, says WHO


[FILES] A Child with measles. Photo: Pixabay

Following several years of steady progress towards elimination of measles in the European Region, the number of countries that have achieved or sustained elimination of the disease has declined.

This was the conclusion of the European Regional Verification Commission for Measles and Rubella Elimination (RVC), based on assessment of annual status updates for 2018, submitted by the 53 member states of the region.

This is contained in a statement released on Friday, on the World Health Organisation (WHO) official website.

The statement noted that the RVC determined that, for the first time since the verification process began in 2012, four countries, (Albania, Czechia, Greece and the U.K., lost their measles elimination status.

Dr Günter Pfaff, Chairperson of the RVC urged European countries to improve and sustain immunisation coverage to tackle its spread.

Pfaff commended Austria and Switzerland for eliminating the disease.

“Re-establishment of measles transmission is worrisome, if high immunisation coverage is not achieved and sustained in every community, both children and adults will suffer unnecessarily and some will tragically die.

“The RVC was, on the other hand, pleased to conclude that Austria and Switzerland attained elimination status, having demonstrated the interruption of endemic transmission for at least 36 months.

“For the region as a whole, as at the end of 2018, 35 countries are considered to have achieved or sustained measles elimination (compared to 37 for 2017).

“Two countries have interrupted the endemic transmission of measles (for 12–35 months), 12 remain endemic for measles and four that had previously eliminated the disease have re-established measles transmission,’’ he said.

The RVC Chairperson also disclosed that the surge in cases that began in 2018, has continued into 2019, with about 90, 000 cases reported for the first half of 2019.


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