Measles has returned dangerously in Europe because vaccination rates have declined, says the World Health Organization. Compared to 2016, the number of infections quadrupled to more than 21,000 cases throughout Europe in 2017. Thirty-five people died.
The outbreaks affected 15 European countries, especially the large ones that killed Romania with 5,562 infections, Italy with 5,006 and Ukraine with 4,767. In a statement, the WHO regional director for Europe, Zsuzsanna Jakab, called it "a tragedy that we simply can not accept."
Measles is a contagious and potentially deadly virus that can be prevented, thanks to the safe and effective MMR vaccine. But vaccination rates have decreased in some parts of Europe, says the WHO. That leaves people who chose the vaccine or who could not get it because they are too young or sick, vulnerable to infection. The measles virus, known to cause a rash, can also cause pneumonia, brain inflammation and death.
In Romania, the decrease in vaccinations is partly due to the shortage of vaccines throughout the country, although the country's Ministry of Health says they already have enough. But experts also attribute the recent resurgence of measles in Italy, for example, to the growing strength of anti-vaccine movements, according to CNN. The anti-vaxxers buy the totally discredited theory that vaccines cause autism.
Recently, European countries such as France and Italy have made certain mandatory vaccines, according to Vox. In Italy, parents can face a fine of around $ 600 if they can not prove that their children are vaccinated before starting school. In Germany, fines are up to $ 3,000 for parents who reject medical advice on vaccines, Reuters reported in May. In the United States, where measles has also reappeared, California forbade parents to claim that their personal beliefs prevented them from vaccinating their children.
WHO plans to increase vaccination rates through public awareness campaigns and improve the supply chain of vaccines. "This short-term setback can not dissuade us from our commitment to be the generation that frees our children of these diseases once and for all," says Jakab.