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Ahead Of Immunization Week, WHO Calls For Countries To Come Together To Control Measles Outbreak In Europe

WHO is urging countries in Europe to join together to help control the measles outbreak that has grown to more than 6,500 cases in 33 countries and the potential for worsening outbreaks “in the days ahead as people travel during the Easter holidays,” U.N. News Centre reports (4/21).

Worldwide measles kills 200,000 children per year, Al-Jazeera English reports in a video (Brennan, 4/21). “The disease can be prevented through a safe and effective vaccine, and immunization campaigns worldwide have helped millions of children in high-risk areas. The number of deaths from measles slumped by an estimated 78 percent between 2000 and 2008,” U.N. News Centre adds (4/21). Al-Jazeera English describes how public fears of the measles mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine likely contributed to the rise of measles cases now being seen in Europe (4/21).

“With shared borders and considerable population movement, countries share health threats,” Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO regional director for Europe, said, according to U.N. News Centre. “There is a need to create strong partnerships to prevent and control diseases, such as measles, in our region,” she added (4/21).

Jakab’s statements come ahead of Immunization Week, which kicks off Saturday in 180 countries and territories across the world, according to a WHO press release. The week will include educational materials on vaccines; programs for health workers; discussions between policymakers, health professionals and members of the community; “and vaccination campaigns to protect vulnerable populations against diseases such as diphtheria, hepatitis B, influenza, measles, mumps, maternal and neonatal tetanus, polio, rubella, whooping cough and yellow fever,” according to the release.

“[W]ith all the positive cooperation, innovation and collaboration that exist, we are at risk of losing many of the gains that have been made and forgoing the additional benefits that are within reach,” WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said, pointing to the recent polio and measles outbreaks in various parts of the world. “I believe Immunization Week will have a significant impact on emphasizing the need to remain vigilant against vaccine-preventable diseases – even those that we do not see within our communities,” she said (4/21).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.