Record European measles outbreak with dozens of deaths and nearly 1,000 UK cases

Measles cases have hit a record high across Europe with more than 41,000 children and adults infected in the first six months of this year.

That figure is nearly double the highest number of yearly cases recorded since 2010.

At least 37 people are thought to have died due to the highly contagious disease so far this year, although there have been no fatalities in the UK.

Between July 2017 and June 2018, there were just under 1,000 cases of measles in Britain, compared to 531 confirmed cases for the whole of 2016.

Meanwhile, there have been 760 cases in the first six months of this year in the UK alone compared to 187 in the last half of 2017.

“Following the decade’s lowest number of cases in 2016, we are seeing a dramatic increase in infections and extended outbreaks" said Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Europe.

"We call on all countries to immediately implement broad, context-appropriate measures to stop further spread of this disease.

"Good health for all starts with immunization, and as long as this disease is not eliminated we are failing to live up to our Sustainable Development Goal commitments.”

Seven countries in the European region have seen more than 1,000 infections in children and adults this year.

These are France, Georgia, Greece, Italy, Russian Federation, Serbia and Ukraine, according to the WHO.

Ukraine has been the hardest hit with more than 23 000 people affected, accounting for over the half the regional total.

Measles-related deaths have been reported in all of these countries, with Serbia reporting the highest number of 14.

In May, it was reported that the UK was facing unprecedented cases of measles.

Anyone who has not received two doses of the MMR vaccine is at risk, while young people mixing in close proximity, for example at festivals or at University, are more vulnerable.

Find out about the symptoms and causes of Measles here .

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Last year, measles cases rocketed by 300% across Europe last year as some parents refused to vaccinate their children.

That led to more than 20,000 people being infected causing 35 deaths, according to figures from the WHO.

Measles is a contagious and serious disease caused by a virus.

Before the introduction of a measles vaccine in 1963, there were serious epidemics every two-three years, causing an estimated 2.6m deaths globally each year.

Measles had virtually been eradicated in Britain before confidence in the MMR vaccine collapsed in the late 1990s after now-discredited Dr Andrew Wakefield wrongly claimed the measles, mumps and rubella jab was linked to autism.

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