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BSI response to 400% increase in measles cases in Europe

Measles virus. 3D illustration showing structure of measles virus with surface glycoprotein spikes heamagglutinin-neuraminidase and fusion protein19 February 2018

The World Health Organization have announced that there was a 400% increase in the number of measles cases in Europe in 2017 compared with the previous year. Overall, 21 315 people in Europe contracted measles, with 35 deaths recorded.  In response to this news, the British Society for Immunology have issued the following statement:

 Professor Peter Openshaw, President of the British Society for Immunology, said:

“News of this large increase in measles cases in Europe is concerning. Measles is a highly infectious viral disease that can lead to extremely serious complications for some of those affected.  There has been a safe and effective vaccine to protect against measles since 1968, which has revolutionised the health of our children and saved many lives. The number of cases in the UK dropped from almost half a million per year before the vaccine was introduced to the low hundreds each year now. Most of the benefits have been via the triple measles–mumps–rubella (MMR) vaccine that is proven to be safe and effective in innumerable studies.

“However, to ensure that our communities benefit from continued protection against measles, both the UK and our European neighbours need to keep vaccination rates high.  Children should routinely receive two vaccines against measles as part of the MMR vaccine, at 1 year of age and again as a pre-school booster (soon after the 3rd birthday). The World Health Organization recommends levels of 95% coverage at these time points to ensure measles outbreaks don’t occur.  England’s coverage currently stands at 92% of children receiving the first MMR vaccine by their second birthday, with 88% receiving the second vaccine by their fifth birthday. We should be doing better. 

“The UK is a world leader in vaccine research and we need to ensure that this excellence is reflected in the provision of vaccines to our children to prevent disease, with Government, NHS and local authorities working together to achieve this.  This not only protects the children themselves, but also people in our communities who are vulnerable because of health problems.

“Parents who are concerned should talk to their GP in the first instance. If you or your child has missed out on the benefits of vaccination, it’s not too late. Get vaccinated. Don’t regret it by waiting to catch one of these diseases.”

You can read the full press release from the World Health Organization here

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