The World Health Organization announced last week that the number of measles cases in Europe jumped sharply during the first six months of 2018, with more than 41,000 cases reported. That’s more than in all 12-month periods so far this decade.
Here are some of the key details:
- At least 37 people have died so far, WHO said.
- Seven countries in Europe have seen over 1,000 infections in children and adults this year, led by Ukraine, where ongoing civil unrest has made prevention difficult.
- France, Georgia, Greece, Italy, the Russian Federation, and Serbia have all reported over 1,000 cases of measles.
- Italy and Romania have introduced laws requiring parents to vaccinate children against measles and other diseases, which should lead to a decrease in infections, but health officials say countries need vaccination rates of at least 95% to prevent epidemics.
People continue to stubbornly refuse to be vaccinated, arguing that most people recover from measles. While that is true, measles is one of the leading causes of death among young children, according to the WHO. According to a report by UNICEF, parents refusing to vaccinate their children because they think it is unnecessary is a major factor behind the measles outbreak in Ukraine.
If you plan to travel abroad and haven’t been vaccinated against measles, be aware of the symptoms—high fever followed by a rash on the face and neck. Or, you know, just go get vaccinated. Measles is “exceptionally contagious” and “spreads easily among susceptible individuals,” according to WHO.