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Expand chart
Adapted from an ECDC report; Map: Harry Stevens / Axios

Measles epidemics have surged in the past year, according to a new report from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and one from the Pan American Health Organization.

The details: Between April 1, 2017, and March 30, 2018, there were more than 14,000 measles cases across Europe, led by Italy (4,448 cases), Romania (3,243), and Greece (2,400). The vast majority (84%) occurred among people who did not receive their measles vaccination, while only 4% of the cases were imported. In the latest dire development, more than 9,000 cases were reported in Ukraine in the first 13 weeks of 2018.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, Venezuela is experiencing a large measles outbreak, with more than 1,600 cases from the middle of last year to the present, and there's been a rise in cases in neighboring Colombia and Brazil. In the U.S., a 2017 outbreak in Minnesota was due mostly to declines in immunization rates among a Somali immigrant community erroneously told that vaccines cause autism.

Why it matters: Measles is a killer disease. It’s estimated that more than 2 million children a year died from measles in the 1980s, but due to global vaccine programs (including Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance launched in 2000), that number has been brought under 70,000 cases. The return of measles to Europe and the Americas could suggest that some of our vaccine successes could be reversing or unraveling. In the case of Venezuela, measles outbreaks are mostly due to the effect of broad economic problems on its health care system, but for Europe and the U.S. measles outbreaks show the effects of powerful and well-organized anti-vaccine movements.

What's next: Vaccines do not cause autism, but more advocacy is needed to counteract the false claims of anti-vaccine groups. In April 2018, the European Commission proposed activities to strengthen the EU's capacity to vaccinate its population and address what some call “vaccine hesitancy.” In the U.S., however, there are still 18 states that allow non-medical vaccine exemptions linked to personal or philosophical beliefs.

Peter Hotez is a professor and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, where he is also director of the Texas Children's Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, and the author of “Vaccines Did Not Cause Rachel’s Autism.”

Go deeper

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27 mins ago - Health

Experts fear a bad flu season on top of COVID

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Public health officials are warning that the U.S. may be on the verge of a dangerous double whammy: COVID and flu, spreading simultaneously.

The big picture: The Delta variant is still circulating across the U.S., and the Omicron variant isn't far behind. On top of that, experts see potential warning signs of a bad flu season, which could leave millions of Americans vulnerable and strain health care resources.

Updated 2 hours ago - World

Australia joins U.S. in diplomatic boycott of Beijing Winter Olympics

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Photo: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

Australia is joining the U.S. in a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games in protest of human rights abuses committed by China's government, Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed Wednesday.

Driving the news: After the Biden administration's announcement that U.S. officials won't attend the Games due to the ongoing genocide of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region of China, Morrison said at a Sydney briefing that Australia would follow suit as "it's the right thing to do."

Progressives to file resolution to strip Boebert's committee seats

Rep. Lauren Boebert walking through the Senate side of the U.S. Capitol earlier this month. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

House progressives are planning to introduce a resolution on Wednesday to strip Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) of her committee assignments, according to a Democratic aide familiar with the matter.

Why it matters: The move, which was first reported by the Washington Post, comes as progressives — anxious to see the right-wing firebrand face retribution for her recent comments — have grown frustrated by Democratic leadership's inaction on the issue.