Aug. 19 (UPI) -- British health officials say they will take "urgent action" to improve vaccination rates after an unusually high number of measles this year has led the World Health Organization to pull its status as a "measles-free" nation.
Britain recorded 231 cases of measles in the first quarter -- two years after it received the WHO designation. Public Health England said Monday the status has been removed. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called for urgent action to vaccinate children.
Part of the strategy is to ramp up a media campaign to highlight the importance of vaccinations and accurate information to dispel the anti-vaccination movement. Johnson said he's planning a summit among social media companies to help in the effort.
"From reassuring parents about the safety of vaccines to making sure people are attending follow-up appointments, we can and must do more to halt the spread of infectious, treatable diseases in modern-day Britain," Johnson said.
"Losing our 'measles-free' status is a stark reminder of how important it is that every eligible person gets vaccinated," Mary Ramsey, head of immunization at Public Health England, said. "Elimination can only be sustained by maintaining and improving coverage of the [measles-mumps-rubella] vaccine."
The World Health Organization said this month measles cases worldwide have grown to their highest point since 2006. It noted a particular surge in the United States this year, where officials have confirmed the most cases in more than a quarter-century.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledged 1,203 cases as of Thursday, the most since 1992. Between Aug. 8 and Thursday, there was a 1.8 percent increase in cases.
The disease was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000.