The World Health Organization (WHO) has recorded around 90,000 cases of measles in Europe in the first six months of 2019 — a higher figure than the 84,462 cases identified in the whole of 2018.
The figures, released by WHO on 29 August 2019, are based on an assessment of the 53 member states comprising the region by the European Regional Verification Commission for Measles and Rubella Elimination (RVC).
The RVC also confirmed that the UK, Albania, Greece and Czech Republic lost their measles-free status in 2018.
The WHO classes the current status of measles circulation in the European region as a grade 2 emergency , described as an event having moderate public health consequences, which allows the organisation to activate an emergency support team.
Zsuzsanna Jakab, regional director for Europe at the WHO, said: “Through activation of the emergency response, [the] WHO has increased its focus on measles elimination and upgraded its action.”
Martin Marshall, vice chair of the Royal College of GPs, described the RVC’s findings were as “disheartening”.
“While take-up of the MMR vaccination across the UK are still high, it is not high enough, and we have actually seen a small decline in recent years,” he said.
“It is clear that we are still suffering from entirely debunked claims around MMR that were perpetuated in the [1990s] — and are now resurgent on social media and other online platforms.”
However, Marshall said it was “encouraging that WHO has increased its focus on measles elimination and upgraded action to address the challenges which have allowed this deadly virus to persist in countries including the UK”.