Hundreds of thousands of football fans are arriving in the Ukraine for the UEFA European Championships amid an ongoing measles outbreak.
Health authorities have been urging football fans to ensure they are immunised against measles before travelling to the Ukraine as local officials work to contain a serious epidemic which began last year.
By the end of March, the Ukraine had recorded more than 5,000 new cases of measles in 2012, with the WHO Regional Office for Europe suggesting this could be an underestimate.
Most of the new infections have been recorded in the country’s western region which borders Poland – the Ukraine’s ‘Euro 2012’ co-host – as well as Slovakia and Hungary.
As always with mass gatherings, officials are concerned that fans will pick up an infectious disease in and around football stadiums before carrying the virus back to their home country.
“It is very strongly recommended that you are vaccinated against measles and rubella in sufficient time before you travel to EURO 2012. If you are not, you risk being infected, and you may spread measles to others,” the guide states.
The tournament comes just as early signs are emerging that Europe’s measles epidemic may be easing. The number of measles cases in Europe increased by 477% between 2009 and 2011 but figures for 2012 show fewer people were infected in the first two months of the year compared with the same period in 2011.
Globally, the WHO says measles immunisation programmes have helped to reduce the number of children dying from the disease over the past decade. However, it continues to encourage vaccination and warn against complacency.
Watch: Measles – Battling Complacency in Europe