More than 6,500 measles cases reported in Europe so far this year

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The World Health Organization reported on Wednesday that at least 6,500 cases of measles have been confirmed in 12 European countries so far this year.

A staggering 4,937 cases were officially reported in France from January to March, according to the WHO. Most of the people who got the disease were not immunized with the measles vaccination.

In an effort to quell the outbreak, more than 50 countries will take part in the European Immunization Week, which runs from April 23 to April 30. The initiative will come during the Easter holidays, a busy traveling time that could further increase the risk of exportation and importation of the highly contagious disease.

Some health officials fear that the lack of immunization is due to the persistent rumor that the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine is harmful.

“The vaccine is a safe vaccine,” Dr. Rebecca Martin, head of the Vaccine Preventable Disease program for the WHO’s European region, said. “The disease is much more severe than any possible side effects that might be caused by the vaccine.”

Although preventable by vaccine, measles remains one of the leading causes of death among young children globally. For every 1,000 children who get measles, one or two will die, according to the CDC.

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