Europe is experiencing the return of an old foe.
Measles cases on the continent have spiked dramatically, and researchers say anti-vaccine campaigns are to blame.
How bad is it?
The World Health Organization reported that in the first six months of this year, Europe already had 41,000 cases of measles — which is nearly twice last year's annual total and higher than any other year over the past decade. So far in 2018, the disease has claimed 37 lives on the continent.
There were 23,927 cases in 2017, and roughly 5,300 in 2016.
Half the cases this year occurred in Ukraine at 23,000, with more than 1,000 each cropping up in France, Georgia, Greece, Italy, Russia, and Serbia.
"With a vaccine preventable disease, one case is one too many, and the numbers of measles cases so far this year is astounding," Dr. Pauline Paterson of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine told the BBC of the numbers.
The WHO's regional director for Europe, Zsuzsanna Jakab said in a statement, "We are seeing a dramatic increase in infections and extended outbreaks. We call on all countries to immediately implement broad, context-appropriate measures to stop further spread of this disease. Good health for all starts with immunization."
What's going on?
The London Times reported that "far-right and populist parties" in some countries have been accused of drumming up fear and mistrust of vaccinations. The Times points to particular concerns over children whose parents were not inoculated in the wake of a now-debunked theory in the 1990s that the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine could cause autism.
"We have seen a number of measles outbreaks in England which are linked to ongoing large outbreaks in Europe," said Mary Ramsay, head of Public Health England. "The majority of cases we are seeing are in teenagers and young adults who missed out on their MMR vaccine as children."
Dr. Jakab pleaded to the public: "We can stop this deadly disease. But we will not succeed unless everyone plays their part: To immunize their children, themselves, their patients, their populations — and also to remind others that vaccination saves lives."