Europe

Global measles cases doubled in 2018, but only a fraction of cases reported, the WHO says

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The World Health Organisation says the number of measles cases doubled in 2018 to 229,000 but the UN agency estimates less than a tenth of cases are reported.

The number of recorded measles infections doubled to 229,000 last year, the World Health Organisation says, pointing to conflict regions and remote, impoverished areas as the main hot spots.

The UN health agency estimated, however, that less than a tenth of the cases are reported to health authorities, and that the real number for last year lies above 2 million.

More than a third of the global count came from the wider Europe region, where the tally tripled to 82,596 cases last year, according to figures released by WHO's Europe office last week.

Yemeni students wait to get vaccinated during a week-long vaccination campaign against measles at a school amid a rapidly spreading outbreak.
Yemeni students wait to get vaccinated during a week-long vaccination campaign against measles at a school amid a rapidly spreading outbreak.
AAP

A large share of the European infections happened in Ukraine, which has been suffering from a separatist conflict in its eastern regions.

In Asia, the Philippines this week reported at least 70 deaths, most of them children, in a current measles outbreak.

At least 922 children and young adults have died of measles in Madagascar since October, despite a huge emergency vaccination program

Conflict zones and related migration flows pose a major challenge to vaccination efforts, as well as areas in poor countries that are hard to reach, WHO officials told a press conference on Thursday, calling for stronger efforts to vaccinate every child.

Measles remains a significant cause of death among young children around the world. The highly contagious disease is spread by coughing, sneezing, close personal contact or direct contact with infected nose or throat secretions.

"Measles is a fully preventable disease caused by a virus," WHO's vaccination's chief Katherine O'Brien said.

"The vaccines are extremely safe and highly effective," she added.

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