After 3 years of historic low incidences of measles in Europe, the disease incidence has bounced back, with more than 26,000 confirmed cases reported from January to July 2011.
In a CDC report issued today, health officials pointed at failure to vaccinate susceptible populations as the primary reason for increased measles transmission. They said lack of vaccination also poses a serious threat to achieving the regional measles elimination goal by 2015.
In a press release, WHO officials said from January to July, 40 of the 53 countries in Europe reported 26,025 measles cases, with the largest burden of outbreaks falling on western Europe. Eleven deaths have been reported, with 80% of those being in those aged older than 10 years.
France reported the highest number of patients with measles, at about 14,025. Rural populations in Romania and Uzbekistan were also named as areas with high measles incidence. The predominant genotype circulating is D4, the same endemic genotype found in the United Kingdom in 2008. This confirms that a truly region-wide epidemic is under way, WHO officials wrote in the release. They added that spread has also been reported to areas outside of Europe, including the United States.
Some European countries have changed their immunization schedules and programs to address vaccine gaps. Health officials in Europe have also been advocating for immunization among the general population.
“Eliminating measles in [the European region] by 2015 will require achieving >95% coverage with two doses of measles-containing vaccine across a wide age range, including adults, implementing effective outbreak control measures and further strengthening surveillance,” the CDC wrote in its report.
Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.