World Health Organization (WHO) said Tuesday that measles has killed 35 people in the past 12 months in Europe and called it an “unacceptable tragedy.” WHO blamed the deaths on low vaccination rates. Countries like Romania and Italy have faced the worst outbreaks, including the most recent case where a 6-year-old boy died of measles in Italy.
Italy is fighting with over “3,300 measles cases and two deaths have occurred since June 2016,” WHO said in its press release Tuesday.
“Several other countries have also reported outbreaks; according to national public health authorities, these have caused 31 deaths in Romania, one death in Germany and another in Portugal,” WHO added.
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The United States has also seen a significant rise in measles this year. As of mid-June, 108 cases were reported to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), CBS News reported.
“Every death or disability caused by this vaccine-preventable disease is an unacceptable tragedy,” said Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO’s regional director for Europe. “We are very concerned that although a safe, effective and affordable vaccine is available, measles remains a leading cause of death among children worldwide, and unfortunately Europe is not spared. Working closely with health authorities in all European affected countries is our priority to control the outbreaks and maintain high vaccination coverage for all sections of the population,” Jakab added.
According to CDC, measles is a common disease in many countries around the world, including those in Africa, the Pacific region, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. It is considered to be a highly contagious disease, however vaccinating almost 95 percent of the population could prevent it from spreading.
It has been found that in the U.S., the disease is mainly caused as a result of international travel. Measles outbreak can be a result of travelers who already have the infection and spread it while returning and have not been vaccinated before. Any person who is not protected against the disease has the risk of being infected when he or she travels internationally.
However there are several ways, according to CDC that can help you prevent measles from affecting you.
Proper vaccination and immunization at specific intervals can help prevent the disease. The MMR vaccine given to prevent measles is a three-in-one immunization that protects you and your family from measles as well as rubella and mumps.
Children can be given their first MMR vaccination at 12 months or even earlier if they plan to travel internationally. The second dose is given between the ages of 4 to 6 years. Adults who were not immune against the disease in their childhood can request the vaccine from their doctors.
Limit interactions with those who are infected with the virus in your family and others around you. As it is a contagious disease, this would help prevent you from getting infected.
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Measles is caused by the rubeola virus, and the symptoms start to appear from about 8 to 12 days after you have been exposed to the virus. Symptoms include cough, running nose, conjunctivitis or swollen eyelids and red eyes, reddish brown rash and Koplik’s spots, which are tiny greyish-white spots inside the cheeks, throat and in the mouth.
The infection can spread through physical contact with an infected person, touching a surface that already has the virus on it or being close to an infected person who coughs or sneezes. The virus is said to be active for 2 hours on an object.
There is no prescribed treatment for measles, however, it’s symptoms can be relieved by consuming Acetaminophen (Tylenol), taking proper bed rest; some infants also require vitamin A supplements, which minimizes the complications in children who might suffer from a deficiency of vitamin A, according to the New York Times.