Measles outbreaks still ongoing in 2018 and fatalities reported from four countries

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.

Between 1 February 2017 and 31 January 2018, 14 732 cases of measles were reported to the European Surveillance System by 30 EU/EEA countries according to ECDC’s monthly measles and rubella monitoring report published today. Most cases were reported by Romania (5 224), Italy (4 978), Greece (1 398) and Germany (906), accounting for 35%, 34%, 9% and 6%, respectively, of all cases reported by EU/EEA countries.

Fifteen EU/EEA countries reported 1 073 cases of measles in January 2018 (Source: TESSy). Greece and France in particular reported an increased number of cases.

According to more recent data published in ECDC’s Communicable Disease Threat Report (CDTR), obtained through epidemic intelligence, the highest number of measles cases in the EU since 1 January 2018 were in Greece (1 008), Romania (757), France (429) and Italy (164). Seven deaths have been reported from these 4 countries – Romania (3), Italy (2), Greece (1) and France (1).

Measles is a severe disease and since the beginning of 2016, 57 deaths due to the disease have been reported in the EU.

Measles affects all age groups across Europe, and according to the data up to 31 January 2018 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, being those most at risk of severe complications and deaths– and too young to have received the first dose of the vaccine. Such infants are best protected by herd immunity, which is achieved when population coverage for the second dose of a measles-containing vaccine is at least 95%.

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

Vaccination with at least two doses of measles-containing 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-containing vaccine 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.

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ECDC collects measles data on a monthly basis via The European Surveillance System. In addition, ECDC monitors measles and rubella epidemiology and outbreaks via epidemic intelligence