The 2018 FIFA World Cup is kicking off in Russia in only a week. Soccer fans may be eager to catch a glimpse of Cristiano Ronaldo and other world-renowned players, but there’s one thing they definitely don’t want to catch: measles.
Measles is a highly infectious — and potentially fatal — viral illness that is typically spread by breathing or coughing. Waning levels of vaccine coverage in recent years have led to outbreaks across parts of Europe, including Russia, according to Robb Butler, program manager for vaccine-preventable diseases at the World Health Organization’s Regional Office for Europe.
“Over the last decade, we’ve certainly seen a resurgence of vaccine preventable diseases in the European region, and measles is one of them,” Butler said. “In 2017, we had a fourfold increase (in measles), and that seems to be continuing into 2018.”
In 2017, over 20,000 people across Europe were infected with the virus, resulting in at least 35 deaths. Among the hardest-hit nations were Ukraine and Romania. Romania reported over 5,000 cases in 2017, according to Butler.
Russia has also been heavily affected by the recent outbreak, with more than 800 cases reported in 2018. There have been no measles-related deaths reported there this year, according to Butler.