There were 30 times more cases of measles in the first 10 months of 2023 compared with the year before, warned the World Health Organization’s Europe office Tuesday, as it urged countries to implement “urgent” immunization campaigns.
The United Nations health body said that declining levels of vaccination are to blame for the resurgence of the extremely infectious virus which causes fever, coughing, and in rare cases pneumonia, brain inflammation and death.
The WHO’s Europe region registered more than 30,000 cases of measles between January and October 2023. That compares with 941 cases in all of 2022. Cases have become more frequent in the recent months and the trend is expected to continue unless immediate measures are taken, the WHO said.
“Urgent vaccination efforts are needed to halt transmission and prevent further spread. It is vital that all countries are prepared to rapidly detect and timely respond to measles outbreaks, which could endanger progress towards measles elimination,” said WHO Europe’s regional director, Hans Kluge.
According to the WHO, the Covid-19 pandemic interfered with routine immunization of children in the years between 2020 to 2022. It estimates that more than 1.8 million babies weren’t vaccinated against measles in the period. The WHO said that cases have been registered in countries where measles had been officially declared eliminated as an endemic disease.
Last week, the U.K. Health Security Agency (UKHSA) declared a national incident over a surge in measles cases across the country. The country’s National Health Service started a major vaccination catch up campaign on Monday.