FILE PHOTO: Measles outbreak

The number of measles cases is projected to increase further in Lithuania as people have lost their collective immunity to this highly contagious viral disease.

The Director of Lithuania’s Centre for Communicable Diseases and AIDS (ULAC), Saulius Caplinskas, said on Friday.

“The collective immunity has been lost as a 95 per cent measles vaccination coverage rate is considered as minimum to prevent an outbreak. There are new suspected cases of measles, blood samples are being examined.

“I have no doubt that in the nearest future there will be new cases,’’ Caplinskas was quoted as saying by local news website lrt.lt.

Recent data from ULAC shows that the proportion of children vaccinated against measles in the country has decreased from 97 per cent in 2009 to 92.2 per cent in 2018 due to parents’ reluctance to vaccinate their kids.

According to ULAC, every year some 5,000 children are not vaccinated in Lithuania.

“Measles outbreaks feature certain upswings and descent, yet we will have to live under the threat of measles for a while,’’ Caplinskas said.

In total, 310 cases of measles have been registered as of Friday in Lithuania this year, compared to 30 cases for the whole of 2018, ULAC data showed.

The largest number of cases, 149, was registered in Kaunas, Lithuania’s second largest city.

In Vilnius, the capital, 39 measles cases have been registered to date.

Measles is a highly contagious, serious disease caused by a virus, says the World Health Organisation.