The number of measles cases skyrocketed in Europe last year to more than triple the number reported in 2016, health officials said. The increase was driven by gaps in vaccination coverage that have caused outbreaks in several countries.
According to recently published data, in 2017, there were 14,451 cases of measles reported to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) by 30 countries, far exceeding the 4,643 cases reported in 2016.
The ECDC said 50 people in Europe have died from measles since the beginning of 2016. It said the number of reported cases in 2017 may be underestimated, particularly in Romania, where a large outbreak is ongoing.
Italy, Greece and Germany also have seen a high number of cases, and outbreaks are still occurring in France, the United Kingdom and Sweden, according to the ECDC. The agency said the surge in measles cases has been caused by suboptimal vaccination coverage. Among infected patients in 2017 whose vaccination status was known, 87% were unvaccinated.
According to health officials, the number of measles cases in Europe more than tripled in 2017 compared with 2016.
“Measles affects all age groups across Europe, and according to the data for 2017 in the monthly measles and rubella monitoring report, 45% of measles cases with known age were aged 15 years or older — highlighting gaps in cohorts of individuals that missed out [on] vaccination,” the ECDC said on its website. “However, the highest incidence of cases was reported in infants below 1 year of age — those most at risk of severe complications and deaths — and too young to have received the first dose of the vaccine.”
Measles has caused recent outbreaks in the United States, too, including dozens of cases in Minnesota that were linked to anti-vaccine rhetoric. Health officials in New Jersey and Illinois recently warned travelers about potential exposure to measles at two airports.
Measles is one of the most contagious infectious diseases. According to the CDC, receiving two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine is about 97% effective at preventing infection and one dose is around 93% effective. – by Gerard Gallagher
ECDC. Measles cases in the EU treble in 2017, outbreaks still ongoing. 2018. https://ecdc.europa.eu/en/news-events/measles-cases-eu-treble-2017-outbreaks-still-ongoing. Accessed February 13, 2018.