Holidaymakers get fresh warnings over vaccinations as measles rises

Holidaymakers have been given fresh warnings to ensure they are vaccinated against measles after it emerged European cases have reached an eight-year high
Holidaymakers have been given fresh warnings to ensure they are vaccinated against measles after it emerged European cases have reached an eight-year high
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Holidaymakers have been given fresh warnings to ensure they are vaccinated against measles after it emerged European cases have reached an eight-year high.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said the number of cases of the highly infectious disease in 2018 had already outstripped any year since 2010.

Across Europe there were more than 41,000 measles cases recorded during the first six months of 2018, including 37 deaths. The WHO said the highest annual total for measles cases since 2010 was recorded in 2017 when 23,927 cases were identified.

The global health body said France, Georgia, Greece, Italy, Russia, Serbia and Ukraine have had more than 1,000 cases each in 2018.

Ukraine has been the hardest hit, with more than 23,000 people affected, it said.

Meanwhile, Public Health England (PHE) issued further warnings for people who are travelling to countries with outbreaks. It said people should ensure they are up to date with their measles, bumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination before travel.

However, in Scotland uptake remains high, with one dose of the MMR vaccine by five years of age standing at 96.7 per cent against a 95 per cent target.

Those who are starting university or attending festivals should also make sure they are protected.

Figures from the health body show that, from January 1 to August 6, there were 807 laboratory-confirmed measles cases.

PHE said many cases have been linked to ongoing outbreaks in Europe.

It said 58 per cent of confirmed cases have been among children aged 15 and younger, who missed out on their MMR vaccine when they were younger.

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at PHE, said: “We have seen a number of measles outbreaks in England which are linked to ongoing large outbreaks in Europe.

“The majority of cases we are seeing are in teenagers and young adults who missed out on their MMR vaccine when they were children. Anyone who missed out on their MMR vaccine in the past or are unsure if they had two doses should contact their GP practice to catch-up.

“We would encourage people to ensure they are up to date with their MMR vaccine before travelling to countries with ongoing measles outbreaks, heading to large gatherings such as festivals or before starting university.”

Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO regional director for Europe, added: “Following the decade’s lowest number of cases in 2016, we are seeing a dramatic increase in infections and extended outbreaks. We call on all countries to immediately implement broad, context-appropriate measures.”