Measles on the rise in Europe
An increase of European measles cases, especially among Roma, travelers, immigrant families and Orthodox Jews, threatens the World Health Organization's goal of eliminating measles from Europe by 2010.Paris -- Cases of measles have risen sharply in parts of Europe, reflecting the mobility of people carrying the disease and the failure to complete vaccination strategies among key communities, The Lancet reported on Wednesday.
In 2006, 8,223 cases of measles occurred in Europe, a tally that fell to 3,909 in 2007 but, in the first nine months of 2008 rose to 6,269 cases.
Separately, doctors also looked at 12,132 cases of measles that occurred in 32 European countries in 2006 and 2007, seven of which were fatal.
Romania, Germany, Britain, Switzerland and Italy accounted for most of the cases, which occurred especially among Roma, also called gypsies, as well as among travelers, immigrant families and orthodox Jews, The Lancet reported.
Measles is caused by a highly contagious virus that causes fever and spots to break out over the body, but is easily prevented by a vaccine, usually administered in early childhood.
However, some people are not vaccinated or are incompletely vaccinated, sometimes because of lack of access to medical structures, poor supervision or a refusal to have the shot in the mistaken belief that it is unnecessary or even harmful.
The problem threatens the World Health Organization's (WHO) goal of eliminating measles from Europe by 2010 and raises the possibility that infected Europeans could spread the disease to poor countries where vaccination rates are low, the study said.
Because measles weakens the immune system, the disease is dangerous to unvaccinated people who have health complications, especially respiratory problems. Most measles-related fatalities are caused by pneumonia, diarrhea and acute encephalitis.
Exposure to measles is also dangerous for pregnant women, causing miscarriage, stillbirth and premature delivery.
Around 197,000 people died from measles in 2007, a fall of 74 percent from 2000, thanks to a massive immunization campaign, according to WHO's most recent statistics.
In the early 1960s, as many as 135 million cases of occurred each year, six million of them fatal.