The World Health Organization (WHO) has sounded the alarm regarding a concerning surge in measles cases across Europe. Here’s what you need to understand about this highly contagious and potentially deadly disease.
Alarming Rise in Measles Cases
According to the WHO Regional Office for Europe, between January and October 2023, the region witnessed a staggering 30-fold increase in measles cases compared to the entire previous year. Shockingly, 40 out of 54 member states reported over 30,000 cases, a stark contrast to the 941 cases recorded in 2022.
Regional Impact and Severity
Kazakhstan and Russia experienced the highest burden, each reporting over 10,000 cases. In Western Europe, the United Kingdom led with a total of 183 reported cases. The situation is particularly worrisome, with 21,000 hospital admissions and five fatalities reported during this period, emphasized WHO Regional Director Hans Kluge.
Understanding Measles: Symptoms and Complications
Measles ranks among the most contagious infectious diseases, spreading through respiratory droplets during coughing, sneezing, or speaking. Common symptoms include:
- Runny nose
- Reddish-brown skin rash (starting on the face and behind the ears, then spreading throughout the body)
Measles temporarily weaken the immune system, making individuals vulnerable to secondary infections such as:
- Otitis media (middle ear infections)
- Respiratory or
Complications and Mortality Risks
One of the most feared complications of measles is encephalitis, occurring in approximately one out of every 1,000 cases, with a mortality rate of 10 to 20%. Additionally, subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE), a progressive inflammation of the brain and nervous system, may develop years after measles infection, leading to inevitable death.
Importance of Vaccination
Currently, there is no specific treatment for measles, with management focusing on alleviating symptoms such as fever. Antibiotics are ineffective against viral infections like measles but may be prescribed to treat bacterial complications like otitis media or pneumonia.
Vaccination is paramount in preventing measles outbreaks. The decline in vaccination rates during the pandemic has contributed to the current spread. Persistent immunity gaps and missed vaccinations have left many individuals, including children, susceptible to this potentially fatal disease. Notably, approximately 1.8 million infants in the WHO European Region were left unvaccinated against measles between 2020 and 2022.
Urgent Call to Action
It is imperative to intensify vaccination efforts to prevent further resurgence, emphasizes the regional office. All countries must be prepared to swiftly detect and respond to measles outbreaks to safeguard the progress made towards measles elimination in Europe.
Measles Status in Germany: Cases, Recommendations, and Vaccine Mandates
The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported 57 measles cases in 2023, with ten cases already recorded in 2024.
The Standing Committee on Vaccination (Stiko) recommends measles vaccination for all children, preferably with a measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) combination vaccine. The first dose is ideally administered between 11 and 14 months of age, with the second dose given no sooner than four weeks after the first and no later than the end of the second year. Adults born after 1970 with unclear vaccination status or who received only one dose in childhood are also advised to receive a single MMR vaccination.
Since March 2020, Germany has enforced mandatory measles vaccination, targeting childcare facilities, schools, and certain professions such as healthcare workers.
Original source: This information was Initially covered by Focus and has been translated for our readers.