The measles epidemic sweeping Europe has reached an eight-year high, with more than 41,000 cases reported in the first six months of the year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned.
This far-exceeds the end of year totals from every other year this decade and at least 37 people are believed to have died from the disease, which can be almost entirely prevented with vaccination.
"This partial setback demonstrates that every person who is not immune remains vulnerable no matter where they live, and every country must keep pushing to increase coverage and close immunity gaps, even after achieving interrupted or eliminated status,” said Dr Nedret Emiroglu, director of the WHO’s European Division of Health Emergencies and Communicable Diseases.
Seven countries, including France, Italy and Greece have had more than 1,000 infections this year and all have reported at least one death. Ukraine has reported the largest number of cases with more than 23,000 children and adults infected, although Serbia has seen 14 measles-related deaths, the highest in Europe.
In England, 828 cases have been confirmed up to 13 August, more than three times higher than the 2017 total. Most cases in England are being seen in teenagers and young adults, the group born at the turn of the millennium when anti-vaccination fears exploded into the mainstream after now-retracted paper from disgraced physician Andrew Wakefield claimed it causes autism.