Anti-vaxxers might be responsible for explosion of measles in Europe

Unvaccinated young children are at highest risk of contracting measles

It came after a record low of 5,273 measles cases the previous year.

Neighbouring Italy has witnessed a big outbreak of measles, prompting the government past year to introduce a law that made it incumbent on kindergarten schools and child care centres to accept only children who are vaccinated.

The Copenhagen-based agency said large outbreaks of the disease - defined as 100 or more cases - affected 15 of the 53 countries in the region.

"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".

However, the figures for Ireland show a reverse trend - with more cases in 2016 than in 2017.

More than 20,000 cases of measles, for which there is no specific medication, were documented in Europe during 2017.

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

Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, from the World Health Organization, said: "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".

HSE Measles clinic for city

The symptoms of measles include fever, rash and red and painful eyes.

Last September, it was announced that measles had been officially eradicated in the United Kingdom - meaning it had not freely circulated for three years - thanks to widespread immunisation with the MMR vaccine.

Dr Jakab insisted that the elimination of both measles and rubella "is a priority goal that all European countries have firmly committed to".

Measles is highly contagious, but easily preventable with a vaccine.

If people are unsure of their vaccination status they are advised to get an MMR vaccine, as even if they do have 2 doses of MMR a third dose is not harmful.

Eleven ministers of health were expected to meet Tuesday to consider methods of reaching goals set out in the European Vaccine Action Plan by 2020 to eliminate measles and rubella.

Dr. Mai Mannix, Director of Public Health in the Mid-West stated that ' MMR vaccine is the safest way that parents can protect their children against measles as infants, young children and their families are particularly vulnerable.

"This short-term setback can not deter us from our commitment to be the generation that frees our children from these diseases once and for all".

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