World Health Organization reports 400% increase in measles cases in 2017

Malta's strong vaccination programme has helped eradicate measles and rubella from the island

Malta's strong vaccination programme has helped eradicate measles and rubella from the island

According to the World Health Organization, measles cases in Europe increased 300 percent past year, reaching 21,315.

The infection has brutally struck 15 out of the 53 countries in the region, comparing to how 2016 ended up with 5,273 cases.

Ukraine, with 4,767 measles cases, was among the three countries most affected by the outbreak, along with Romania and Italy, WHO said.

"Unfortunately, it has been hard to get the message across to parents that MMR (measles, mumps and rubella vaccine) is safe".

The number of deaths caused by measles in Europe quadrupled to 35 previous year, the European regional office of the World Health Organization (WHO) has reported.

The figures indicate that a lower rate of vaccination could be behind the increase. In 2017, the World Health Organization reported a total of 115,117 measles cases worldwide, and the vast majority came from the Southeast Asia region, where about 4.8 million children go unvaccinated each year.

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Ministers of health from 11 countries will meet today to discuss working together to achieve the goals set out in the European Vaccine Action Plan by 2020, including measles and rubella elimination. The WHO, however, said outbreaks will continue to occur until every child and adult is protected with an MMR vaccine.

Far fewer cases were reported in other European countries, including 967 in Greece, 927 in Germany, 702 in Serbia, 649 in Tajikistan, 520 in France, 408 in the Russian Federation, 369 in Belgium, 282 in the United Kingdom, 167 in Bulgaria, 152 in Spain, 146 in Czechia and 105 in Switzerland.

Health officials have had to strongly argue against a growing global anti-vaccination movement - with some claiming MMR vaccines can cause autism and refusing to immunise their children.

Symptoms of measles include cold-like symptoms, sore red eyes, a high temperature and a blotchy rash.

Dr Valeria Herdea, president of a professional medical organisation in the country, told the website: "We still have in the media, gossip shows with different celebrities of dubious taste, who provide all kind of "magic methods" for child immunity, without vaccination, but who capture public attention much more than scientific information".

At the time, Wakefield had a patent for single measles, mumps and rubella vaccines, and was therefore accused of having a conflict of interest.

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