WHO warns of measles spread in Europe
Geneva - The World Health Organisation on Friday warned that Europe faces an explosion of measles cases next year unless it takes urgent steps to contain the viral respiratory disease.
In the first nine months of 2011, 36 Western European nations reported a total of 26 000 measles cases, including more than 14 000 in France alone, according to the WHO's latest data.
There were nine deaths, six in France, as well as 7 288 hospitalisations.
Measles - a contagious illness characterised by high fever and the eruption of small red spots - is particularly virulent in Europe from February to May.
Outside Europe, the WHO said, measles had also spread in Democratic Republic of Congo, with more than 100 000 cases, as well as in Nigeria and Somalia, with more than 15 000 cases each.
In Europe, 90% of cases affected adolescents and adults who had not been vaccinated or had failed to receive follow-up vaccinations.
The US centres for disease control and prevention issued a similar warning on Thursday in which it said the European rise in measles began in late 2009, after six years of decline.
In order to reach global health targets of eliminating measles by 2015, the CDC recommended that vaccinations cover 95% of the population with two doses of measles-containing vaccine.