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August 26, 2018

Measles cases spike in Europe, dozens dead

37 people have died so far this year

Scientists are seeing a worrying spike in measles cases so far this year in Europe, stoking fears that more and more people are not getting vaccinated. 

Measles, a highly contagious disease, spreads in the air through coughing and sneezing. A vaccine for measles has been used since the 1960s — but to prevent outbreaks, 95 percent of the population has to be vaccinated. 

More than 41,000 children and adults in Europe have been infected over the last six months, the World Health Organization reported. That number far exceeds the totals for a 12-month period for every other year in this decade. 

A staggering 23,000 cases popped up in the Ukraine so far this year and 1,000 cases have been documented in France, Georgia, Greece, Italy, Russia and Serbia. 

In the U.S. so far in 2018, there have been 124 reported cases in 22 states and Washington, D.C. — including Pennsylvania, according to the Center for Disease Control. In both 2017 and 2016, fewer than 120 people were reported to have measles throughout each respective year.

According to the CDC, one out of every 1,000 people with measles will develop brain swelling, which could lead to brain damage and one or two out of 1,000 people with measles will die, even with the best care.

Doctors recommend getting two doses of the vaccine — the first around 12 and 15 months, and the second before entering school between the ages four and six.

The CDC reports that one dose of the measles vaccine is 93% effective, and two doses are 97% effective if an individual is exposed to the virus.

Skepticism surrounding vaccines has spiked in recent years in Europe, the AP reported. 

But countries like Italy and Romania have introduced new laws requiring parents to vaccinate their children against measles and nine other childhood diseases. Some even impose fines on parents who don't vaccinate their children.

Last week, the United Nations called for better surveillance of the disease and increase immunization rates, the AP reported.

Here are some facts about vaccinating your children and why getting the measles vaccine is important.

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