Measles infected 34,000 in Europe in two months, says WHO | News | DW | 07.05.2019
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Measles infected 34,000 in Europe in two months, says WHO

The World Health Organization has said more than 34,000 people across Europe caught measles in the first two months of 2019. Just this week, Germany proposed a fine for parents who don't vaccinate their children.

The World Health Organization on Tuesday said there had been a sharp rise in the number of measles cases across Europe in January and February of this this year, with more than 34,000 people catching the disease.

Cases recorded across 42 countries resulted in 13 deaths. The number of cases was almost three times greater than for the first two months of 2018. 

In Germany on Tuesday, local authorities in the northern state of Lower Saxony said that an adult had died of measles, though they did not give an age or gender for the victim.

The WHO is urging authorities to ensure that vulnerable people are vaccinated, with the disease currently spreading in many parts of the world. 

"If outbreak response is not timely and comprehensive, the virus will find its way into more pockets of vulnerable individuals and potentially spread to additional countries within and beyond the region," the WHO said in a statement.

"Every opportunity should be used to vaccinate susceptible children, adolescents and adults."

Watch video 02:51

Germany's vaccination problem

Ukraine — which is suffering a measles epidemic — was the worst affected part of Europe with more than 25,000 people affected over the time period. Romania and Albania also had high infection rates.

Read more: Why measles is so deadly and vaccination so important

Measles is also spreading in many other parts of the world; it's on the increase in the US,the Philippines and Thailand. Researchers have claimed that the disease is spreading, at least in part, because there are pockets of unvaccinated people in some areas.

Officials have blamed a drop in immunization rates on a stream of misinformation about the measles vaccine, including a long-debunked theory that it can cause autism.

A highly contagious disease, measles can cause blindness, deafness, brain damage, and even death. 

German Health Minister Jens Spahn has proposed a law allowing for parents of unvaccinated children to be fined up to €2,500 ($2,800), with some 170 cases registered in Germany during January and February. 

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