LONDON, Feb. 14 (UPI) -- There were 2,016 confirmed cases of measles reported in England and Wales last year -- the highest annual total since 1994, health officials said.
The Health Protection Agency said the measles cases identified last year were associated with prolonged outbreaks in Merseyside and Sussex, as well as several smaller outbreaks across England and Wales.
The United Kingdom, France, Italy, Spain and Romania accounted for 87 percent of the 7,392 measles cases reported through the end of November in the European Union.
"Coverage of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine is now at historically high levels but measles is highly infectious and can spread easily among communities that are poorly vaccinated, and can affect anyone who is susceptible, including toddlers in whom vaccination has been delayed," Dr. Mary Ramsay, head of immunization at the HPA, said in a statement.
"Measles continues to circulate in several European countries that are popular with holidaymakers. Measles is a highly infectious disease so the only way to prevent outbreaks is to make sure Britain has good uptake of the MMR vaccine, and that when cases are reported, immediate public health action is taken to target unvaccinated individuals in the vicinity as soon as possible."
Older children not vaccinated at the routine age, who might now be teenagers, are at particular risk of becoming exposed to measles, while at school or camp, officials said.