Europe grapples with ‘surge’ of measles cases that dwarfs ongoing US outbreak

The U.S. isn't the only country grappling with measles outbreaks.

The U.S. is not the only country grappling with continued, record-breaking measles outbreaks.

A new report released by the World Health Organization shows that the fight against measles in Europe is on a downward slide.

The concern comes as data from 2018 shows that some countries saw an uptick in the number of measles cases, and the region continues to battle a growing number of cases of the disease this year as well.

In 2018, four countries lost what the WHO calls elimination status, while two other countries attained status.

That means that of the 53 countries in the region, the number that had either attained or maintained elimination status dropped from 37 countries in 2017 to 35 countries in 2018.

The United Kingdom, Albania, Greece and Czechia were the four countries that lost status in 2018, while Austria and Switzerland were the two countries that attained status.

"Re-establishment of measles transmission is concerning. If high immunization coverage is not achieved and sustained in every community, both children and adults will suffer unnecessarily and some will tragically die," said Dr. Günter Pfaff, the chair of the European Regional Verification Commission for Measles and Rubella Elimination.

Additionally, there are 12 countries that the WHO says remain endemic for measles and two have interrupted the endemic transition of measles.

Major tourist destinations including France, Italy and Germany are three of the 12 countries where the disease remains endemic, or found regularly.

The WHO reports that a "surge in cases" in 2018 has continued steadily into 2019.

Much like in the U.S., the number of cases already reported in 2019 has surpassed the entire previous year. The WHO reports that there have been approximately 90,000 cases in the first half of 2019, which surpasses the 2018 total of 84,462.

By comparison, the Centers for Disease Control reports that there have been 1,215 confirmed cases in the U.S. as of Aug. 22.

The WHO has classified the ongoing measles outbreaks as a Grade 2 emergency, the organization reported in a release on Thursday. A Grade 2 emergency is defined as a single or multiple country event with moderate public health consequences. The April floods in Iran and the spread of HIV in Pakistan are examples of other ongoing Grade 2 emergencies.

"Great efforts to control this highly contagious disease have brought us a long way towards regional elimination. However, ongoing measles outbreaks demonstrate that more is needed. Through activation of the emergency response, WHO has increased its focus on measles elimination and upgraded its action," Dr. Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe, said in the news release.