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WHO warns fans of measles risk ahead of 2018 World Cup

MEASLES RISK: The mass movement of people during events increases the likelihood of the spread of diseases

THE PAN American Health Organization (PAHO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have recommended that travellers get vaccinated ahead of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

The advice urges people to get up-to-date with their vaccinations in an attempt to prevent the spread of measles, mumps and rubella.

The increase in international travel and the mass movement of people during events such as the World Cup increases the risk of passing on the highly contagious diseases.

It also increases the likelihood of travellers returning to their countries with the transmittable diseases, which can have grave consequences on the health of unvaccinated populations.

“We recommend that people get vaccinated at least 15 days prior to travel,” said Cuauhtémoc Ruiz Matus, head of the comprehensive family immunisation unit at PAHO.

“Those travelling to Russia should make sure that their vaccines are up-to-date, particularly those that protect against measles and rubella.”

Last year, the number of new cases of measles in Europe quadrupled, infecting 22,360 people and leading to 36 deaths. In the first three months of 2018, Europe reported more than 18,000 cases of measles.

France, Greece, Serbia and Ukraine are the countries with the highest number of cases, while Russia reported more than 600 cases.

Around 1 million people from all over the world are expected to travel to the World Cup in Russia. Of the 32 countries that will participate in the World Cup, 28 have reported cases of measles this year.

The region was declared free from endemic rubella in 2015 and measles in 2016.

This followed a 22-year effort that included the mass vaccination of 450 million children, adolescents and adults under the age of 40 from all over the continent.

However, imported cases and recent outbreaks in some countries have put these achievements at risk.

“Maintaining the elimination of measles, rubella and congenital rubella syndrome in the Americas requires a vaccination coverage rate of at least 95%, as well as swift action to detect imported cases and break the chain of transmission,” affirmed Ruiz Matus.

The WHO and the PAHO have been issuing warnings about the situation since May 2017, calling on countries to maintain high levels of vaccination coverage, strengthen surveillance, and urgently put into place measures to respond to suspected cases.

The 2018 World Cup will be hosted this year by Russia between June 14 and July 15.

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