News FocusPUBLIC HEALTH

Europe's Embarrassing Problem

Science  27 Apr 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6080, pp. 406-407
DOI: 10.1126/science.336.6080.406

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Summary

While every country in the Americas, including its poorest, wiped measles off the map in 2002, Europe has been unable to do so. Cases have quadrupled since 2009, and the reemergence has become a threat to other countries. In 2011, the United States had 222 cases, the highest number since 1996, and most importations come from Europe. Luckily, high vaccination rates in the Americas prevent most imported infections from spreading. Measles' stubborn persistence in Europe would also be a stumbling block in any plan to eradicate the disease globally. Faced with the grim numbers and amid fears that two huge sporting events this summer could help the disease spread further, public health experts are campaigning hard to raise awareness of the dangers of measles.

  • * Kai Kupferschmidt is a science writer in Berlin.