THE NUMBER of people infected with measles in Europe has hit a decade high, World Health Organisation figures show.

Experts warn parents are being put off vaccinating their kids by so-called “antivaxers” who spread fake scare stories.

Some 82,596 people in 47 of 53 countries contracted measles in 2018 and 72 children and adults died following an infection.

The infection rate is three times the figure in 2017 and 15 times a record low recorded in 2016.
There were 913 cases in England and Wales between January and October 2018, the most recent data from Public Health England shows.

Two adults died from measles in 2017 in the UK but there none last year.

Ukraine reported the highest number of measles cases in Europe last year. And more than nine in ten were in 10 countries, including France, Italy and Greece.

The surge in cases followed a year when Europe achieved the highest ever estimated coverage for measles vaccinations.

But the WHO warned progress had been “uneven” between countries and individual nations have some patches where uptake is low.

Prof Jonathan Ball, a vaccine expert from the University of Nottingham, said: “Measles is probably the most contagious virus infection of humans there is.

“To protect against outbreaks of this potentially devastating infection vaccine coverage has to exceed 95 percent of the population.

“It is lamentable that a significant minority – many of them influenced by a dangerous anti-vaccine movement – are failing to protect their children, such that outbreaks in the UK and Europe are becoming more common, yet a simple jab would stop this.”

Prof Arne Akbar, President of the British Society for Immunology, said: “Vaccine hesitancy remains a concern and one which we must address.

“Vaccines are the one of the safest and the most cost-effective methods we have to prevent disease and they save millions of lives every year.”

Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, from the WHO, said: “The picture for 2018 makes it clear that the current pace of progress in raising immunisation rates will be insufficient to stop measles circulation.

“While data indicate exceptionally high immunisation coverage at regional level, they also reflect a record number affected and killed by the disease.

“This means that gaps at local level still offer an open door to the virus.”