WHO warns Europe of increasing measles outbreaks

The World Health Organization recently issued a warning to European nations that they needed to act immediately in order to stem a series of measles outbreaks across the continent.

A WHO report says that there were more than 26,000 measles cases in 36 European countries from January to October 2011, according to the BBC.

In England and Wales, the number of measles cases in 2011 has approached 1,000, in comparison with 274 reported in all of 2010.

Six out of nine confirmed deaths due to the measles have occurred in France. Paris recently launched a nationwide campaign aimed at raising awareness about the need for MMR vaccination.

"France can simply not afford to have deaths, painful and costly hospitalizations, disruptions to work and school from a completely vaccine-preventable disease," Jean-Yves Grall, the director-general for health in France, said, the BBC reports.

Ninety percent of European measles cases are thought to be among adolescents and adults who have not been vaccinated or among people who have no knowledge of their vaccination status.

European outbreaks have been linked globally to outbreaks in several other countries, including the United States, Brazil, Canada and Australia.

"The increase in measles in European countries reveals a serious challenge to achieving the regional measles elimination goal by 2015,” Zsuzsanna Jakab, the WHO regional director for Europe, said, the BBC reports. "Every country in the European region must take the opportunity now to raise coverage amongst susceptible populations, improve surveillance and severely reduce measles virus circulation before the approaching measles high season."