Measles cases skyrocketing across Europe

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LONDON (CBS) The World Health Organization says measles has infected nearly 90,000 people across Europe in the first half of this year-- more than double the number reported for the same time last year.

"What we are trying to communicate to you and out to the world is we are backsliding, we are on the wrong track," said Dr. Kate O'Brien of the World Health Organization.

Measles is among the world's most infectious diseases and is spread mostly by coughing, sneezing and close personal contact. Health experts say people who refuse to be vaccinated are fueling the resurgence.

Sixty percent of this year's cases hit Ukraine which has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Europe. This week, Ukrainian authorities threatened to ban unvaccinated children from schools in the country.

Measles cases are surging in several European countries thought to have already eliminated it, including Britain.

Health experts are urging countries around the globe to step up vaccination efforts.

"They don't understand the truth of the matter but they also have misinformation about the effectiveness of vaccines and the safety of vaccines, and we do see misinformation as an increasing threat," O'Brien said.

The World Health Organization says the measles vaccine has prevented more than 20 million deaths around the world in the last two decades.

The UN Health Agency says nearly 365,000 cases have been reported globally this year, the highest figure since 2006. Measles killed more than 100,000 people worldwide in 2017.