Measles cases in the EU treble in 2017, outbreaks still ongoing

News story

Measles outbreaks continue to occur in a number of EU/EEA countries, and there is a risk of spread and sustained transmission in areas with susceptible populations.

In 2017, 14 451 measles cases were reported to the European Surveillance System by 30 EU/EEA countries according to ECDC’s monthly measles and rubella monitoring report published today, which provides a short overview on measles data for 2017. This number is over three times the number of cases reported in 2016 (4 643).

According to more recent data published in ECDC’s Communicable Disease Threat Report (CDTR), obtained through epidemic intelligence, the highest number of measles cases to date in the EU since 1 January 2017 were in Romania (10 623), Italy (4 991), Greece (1 463) and Germany (926). This increase was due to a number of outbreaks in EU countries – some of which are still taking place, such as those in France, the UK and Sweden.

Measles is a severe disease and since the beginning of 2016, 50 deaths due to the disease have been reported in the EU.

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 vaccination. However, the highest incidence of cases was reported in infants below one year of age –those most at risk of severe complications and deaths – and too young to have received the first dose of the vaccine.

The continued spread of measles across Europe is due to suboptimal vaccination coverage in many EU/EEA countries: of all measles cases reported during 2017 with known vaccination status, 87% were in unvaccinated individuals.

Vaccination with at least two doses of the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine remains the most effective measure to prevent the further spread of measles. However, vaccination coverage is still too low in some EU/EEA countries to reach elimination, with the latest available figures on coverage collected by WHO (2016) showing that coverage for the second dose of measles was below the target of 95% in 20 of the 27 EU/EEA countries with data. Continued efforts are needed to increase and sustain vaccination coverage.