Measles outbreak - time to get vaccinated if you are not

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More children in the WHO European Region are being vaccinated against measles than ever before; but progress has been uneven between and within countries, leaving increasing clusters of susceptible individuals unprotected, and resulting in a record number of people affected by the virus in 2018.

World Health Organization said the historic annual figure was three times higher than that of 2017 and 15 times greater than the record low reported in 2016. Measles cases in the Philippine capital region also surged 10 times at the start of the year, as the government failed to hit its immunization target in 2018.

"We're hopeful and any time we see that there are no new exposure locations that's helpful", said Marissa Armstrong, spokeswoman for the Clark County Public Health.

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The Northwest cases are among three ongoing measles outbreaks in the US that sickened 79 people in January, according to the CDC.

"We anticipated importation of measles from other parts of the world", Schaffner says, "but it has gained a foothold again because there are communities where a substantial proportion of children remain unimmunized".

The case prompted NSW Health to urge people travelling to South East Asia to ensure they are fully vaccinated before heading overseas. Symptoms such as high fever, rash all over the body, stuffy nose and reddened eyes typically disappear without treatment within two or three weeks. The current measles outbreak in Clark County and one diagnosed case in King County are examples of why the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) Vaccine is a crucial requirement.

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In the WHO's European region, which covers almost 900 million people, some 82,600 in 47 countries contracted measles a year ago - the highest number this decade. Coverage with the first dose of the vaccine also increased slightly to 95%, the highest level since 2013. Of those, 72 cases were fatal.

Ukraine reported the highest number of measles cases previous year across Europe, while more than 90% of cases were in 10 countries, including France, Italy and Greece.

WHO Regional Director for Europe Dr. Zsuzsanna Jakab said that "exceptionally high immunization coverage" across the continent belied significant gaps at local level.

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MMR vaccine rates in two areas in the Pacific Northwest, which has been at the epicenter of a measles outbreak, are surging as people rush to protect themselves and their children from the virus. In Quebec, it's 85 per cent and in B.C., it's 73 per cent. Experts say vaccination rates need to be 90 to 95 per cent in order to achieve herd immunity, which stops the spread of infectious disease.

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