Home » As measles spreads in England, health authorities warn the outbreak could snowball

As measles spreads in England, health authorities warn the outbreak could snowball

by NBC News

LONDON — A serious outbreak of measles in England could grow to tens of thousands of cases, health experts there have warned, as Europe grapples with a spike in the highly contagious disease.

The U.K. Health Security Agency said Friday that since October, there have been 216 confirmed cases and 103 probable cases in the West Midlands region, an urban part of England centered on the city of Birmingham, where around 80% of the cases were recorded. That’s higher than last year’s total of 209 measles cases and the 2022 tally of 53.

Last year, the government warned that a measles outbreak in London could lead to between 40,000 and 160,000 cases there if the vaccination rate did not improve. The rate in England has been falling for years due to misinformation and declining community health budgets. 

Around 89% of children in England have received their first measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine dose by age 2, according to the state-run National Health Service — down from 93% a decade ago. The World Health Organization considers 95% the necessary threshold to maintain herd immunity. 

A British information campaign is now urging people to ensure their children get the vaccination.

British lawmaker Maria Caulfield, who was previously the minister of state for health, laid bare the scale of the challenge when she told the House of Commons on Monday that more than 3.4 million children under 16 are not vaccinated against measles. 

In Europe overall, Hans Kluge, the World Health Organization’s director for the region, warned Wednesday that there had been 42,200 measles cases across 41 countries in 2023 — a nearly 45-fold increase from the 941 recorded the previous year. He said last month that nearly 21,000 people had been hospitalized.

A crisis is also building in central Asia, where more than 13,600 cases were recorded in 2023, the majority among unvaccinated children under 14, the WHO said.

Three U.S. states have also recorded measles cases in the last month….

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