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Ukraine measles outbreak kills 11, infects 30,000

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(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 21, 2019 a nurse prepares a measles vaccine to vaccinate a girl in the school of Lapaivka village near the western Ukrainian city of Lviv. – Eleven people have died and more than 30,000 have been infected this year in a major outbreak of measles in Ukraine, the European country worst hit by the disease, Kiev said on March 18, 2019. Authorities blame a combination of factors including shortages of vaccine and cuts to health services amid an economic slowdown exacerbated by a five-year conflict with Moscow-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. (Photo by Yuri DYACHYSHYN / AFP)

Eleven people have died and more than 30,000 have been infected this year in a major measles outbreak in Ukraine, the European country worst hit by the disease, Kiev said Monday.

The latest victim was a nine-year-old girl who died from complications Saturday after contracting the highly infectious disease, the health ministry said.

Some 30,500 people, including 17,000 children, have been infected so this year.

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Authorities said shortages of vaccine in previous years and anti-vaccination sentiment, often driven by online campaigns spreading false information about the alleged risks, were the main reasons behind the outbreak.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a 95-percent vaccination rate to prevent mass hospitalisations and fatalities.

But in Ukraine, just 42 percent of one-year-olds had been vaccinated as of end-2016, according to the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF.

Measles cases more than tripled across Europe in 2018, with Ukraine accounting for most of the gain.

Europe as a whole saw nearly 83,000 cases last year, according to WHO figures.

The Ukrainian government reported 54,000 cases in 2018. There were 16 deaths nationwide.

In 2019, the authorities launched a special campaign including sending mobile vaccination teams to rural schools in two western regions particularly hard hit in the outbreak.

Measles is characterised by high fever and a reddish rash. It usually triggers only mild symptoms but remains one of the leading causes of death among young children globally.


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