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Measles warning to holidaymakers after cases in Europe hit eight-year high

6:25 pm, 20th August 2018

More than 41,000 measles cases have been reported across Europe in the first six months of the year, including 37 deaths.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says the number of cases of the highly infectious disease are at their highest since 2010.

France, Georgia, Greece, Italy, Russia, Serbia and Ukraine have had more than 1,000 cases each so far in 2018.

But Ukraine has been the hardest hit, with more than 23,000 people affected.

Public Health England (PHE) has issued a warning to people travelling to countries where there have been outbreaks to make sure they are up to date with their measles, bumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination before travel.

The health body said that from 1 January to 13 August there were 828 laboratory confirmed measles cases in England and many have been linked to current outbreaks in Europe.

Some 58% of confirmed cases have been among children aged 15 and younger who did not have the MMR vaccine when they were younger.

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at PHE, said: “We have seen a number of measles outbreaks in England which are linked to ongoing large outbreaks in Europe.

“The majority of cases we are seeing are in teenagers and young adults who missed out on their MMR vaccine when they were children.

“Anyone who missed out on their MMR vaccine in the past or are unsure if they had two doses should contact their GP practice to catch up.

“We would encourage people to ensure they are up to date with their MMR vaccine before travelling to countries with ongoing measles outbreaks, heading to large gatherings such as festivals, or before starting university.”

Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO regional director for Europe, added: “Following the decade’s lowest number of cases in 2016, we are seeing a dramatic increase in infections and extended outbreaks.

“We call on all countries to immediately implement broad, context-appropriate measures to stop further spread of this disease.”

Early signs of measles include cold-like symptoms, sore eyes that may be sensitive to light, fever and small greyish-white spots on the inside of the cheeks.

A few days later a blotchy red-brown rash will appear, usually starting on the head or neck.