Measles Cases Reach 20-Year Height in Europe, as Anti-Vaccination Movement Grows

The Associated Press
AP Photo/Leo Correa

An analysis of World Health Organization data shows measles breaking 60,000 cases in 2018 — with twice as many deaths.

2018 saw more cases of the entirely preventable disease than any other point this century. More than twice as many people contracted measles in 2018 as in 2017, and 72 people have died as a result. Experts worry that “anti-vaxxers” are threatening the “herd immunity” that keeps measles, HPV, the flu, and other diseases at bay, as the blatantly unscientific opposition to modern medicine spreads through social media.

“It is unimaginable that we have deaths because of measles — children dying because of measles,” European Union health commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis. “We promised that by 2020 Europe would be measles free.” The Guardian reported that Andriukaitis blames some “right-wing populist politicians” for stoking the fires fueling this dangerous trend.

“They are very irresponsible,” said Andriukaitis. “ What can we see in this populist movement? Irresponsibility. Now it is very important to see [what they will do in power]. Let’s see what happens with these measles outbreaks when you have those [in charge] who from the beginning used fake news.”

“It is very hard to inoculate against, given there is no stable authority in the world right now, where institutions and facts are being questioned routinely and lying is OK,” said Seth Berkley, the head of the global vaccine alliance “Gavi.”

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine’s Heidi Larson, who serves as their “Vaccine Confidence Project” director, said that society is “in a very vulnerable place right now.” Larson said while “there’s more hyperbole in the US,” she does not “know a country in the world that doesn’t have some questioning going on.”

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