COPENHAGEN (KXAN) — An ongoing measles outbreak in Europe has killed 35 people in the past 12 months, according to the World Health Organization. Romania has been hit hardest with 31 deaths reported.
The most recent death was that of a 6-year-old Italian boy. In Italy, there have been more than 3,300 measles cases that have resulted in two deaths since June of last year. Recently, health experts met in Rome to discuss ways to improve vaccination coverage among children, adults and vulnerable population groups.
“Every death or disability caused by this vaccine-preventable disease is an unacceptable tragedy,” says Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe in a release. “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.”
In response, several countries are adopting measures such as school-entry checks. The BBC reports Germany is looking at tightening the law on immunizations.
In the United States, measles was declared eliminated in 2000. Since then, the annual number of cases has ranged from a low of 37 in 2004 to a high of 667 in 2014. The CDC says one dose of MMR vaccine is approximately 93 percent effective at preventing measles. The combination measles-mumps-rubella-varicella vaccine can be used for children aged 12 months through 12 years.