Anti-vaxxers might be responsible for explosion of measles in Europe: WHO
Sick child with the measles (Shutterstock)

A new report from the World Health Organization (WHO) is warning that those opposed to vaccinations might be responsible for outbreaks of measles across Europe.

According to the report, measles killed 35 people out of the 400 percent increase in the number of reported cases in Europe in 2017. The measles vaccine was first introduced to combat the extremely contagious illness the 1950s, when about 500 Americans would die annually. With a 97 percent effective rate, death rates are much lower today. With a significantly larger population, just 118 Americans died of the disease in 2017, the Center for Disease Control reported.

In Europe, 21,000 cases of the illness were reported, with 5,000 in Romania, Italy and Ukraine.

The figures indicate that a lower rate of vaccination could be behind the increase. Vaccination rates in Romania, for example, declined nearly 20 percent in the last 10 years. In 2006, their rates were 96 percent, where 2016 saw just 76 percent.

“Every new person affected by measles in Europe reminds us that unvaccinated children and adults, regardless of where they live, remain at risk of catching the disease and spreading it to others who may not be able to get vaccinated,” said WHO Regional Director for Europe Dr. Zsuzsanna Jakab via press statement.

When unvaccinated children contract measles it spreads to babies that aren't old enough to get their vaccines. It also impacts adults who have compromised immune systems or other health problems that increase vulnerability.

In Ukraine, only about one-third of people got the vaccine in 2016. Most of the American measles cases can be tracked back to people traveling abroad. The CDC has announced a recommendation for travelers to get the vaccine prior to going to Europe.