Over the past 14 months, a total of more than 100,000 measles cases and over 90 deaths associated with the disease have been reported in 47 of the 53 countries in the WHO European Region. Expressing concern about the spread of the dangerous virus, WHO experts decided to create an operational center to assist the most affected countries.
This decision was made on the basis of an assessment of the situation with the spread of measles in the region. Under the new mechanism, WHO will help countries seek increased immunization coverage and curb the further spread of the disease.
“We are seeing an unprecedented increase in the number of patients with this preventable disease and too many fatal cases,” said Dorit Nitzan, a representative of the WHO Regional Office for Europe.
In the first two months of 2019 alone, 34,300 measles infections were reported in 42 countries in the region. 13 of these cases have been fatal. All measles deaths occur in three countries - Albania, Romania and Ukraine. Ukraine accounts for more than 70 percent of all measles infections in the region, detected in the first months of 2019.
Dorit Nitzan said that various parts of WHO have stepped up joint efforts to eliminate these outbreaks. However, in many countries, the measles virus continues to circulate, and this situation requires more action from the entire international community.
WHO believes that intensifying the response will raise awareness of the problem at the political level and help strengthen European health systems in the long term to prevent similar outbreaks in the future.
Measles is a highly contagious, severe disease of viral origin that spreads through direct contact and through the air. It is one of the main causes of death in young children. It can be prevented by using two doses of a reliable, effective and affordable vaccine. In recent years, measles vaccination coverage for children has decreased markedly in many countries around the world. Experts believe that this trend has led to new outbreaks of disease.