Measles, which had virtually disappeared in the UK and much of the developed world, is returning with a vengeance, despite the fact we’ve had a cheap and effective vaccine for it since the 1960s.
Cases quadrupled in Europe in 2017 and at least 35 people died, according to the World Health Organisation. The countries worst affected have been Ukraine, Romania and Italy – where poorly funded health systems and cultural beliefs among some groups mean take-up of the vaccine is patchy.
But the modern pace of migration and foreign travel has seen the disease spreading across the continent, including to Belgium, Portugal, France and Germany; measles is also on the rise in the United States and even Australia.
In England and Wales there have already been 696 suspected cases of measles so far this year – nearly twice as many as reported in the whole of 2017 – with outbreaks from Birmingham to London, Leeds, Liverpool and Cardiff.
Technically, measles has been eradicated in the UK, but the disease is being imported as a result of unvaccinated children and adults travelling to countries with large outbreaks, including Italy where the vaccination schedule and supply is less robust.
Health authorities are now on high alert and governments are so concerned about the return of measles that laws have been recently passed in France, Germany and Italy making it mandatory that all parents give their children the combined measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) jab, or at least consult their doctor about it.
Measles is one of the most contagious diseases known, but experts warn that the elimination of the disease in large regions of the world has caused many to become dangerously complacent about the need for widespread immunisation.
Source : The Telegraph, WHO