Via WHO's Regional Office for Europe: Measles outbreaks across Europe threaten progress towards elimination. Excerpt:
Over 500 measles cases were reported for January 2017 in the WHO European Region. Measles continues to spread within and among European countries, with the potential to cause large outbreaks wherever immunization coverage has dropped below the necessary threshold of 95%.
“With steady progress towards elimination over the past 2 years, it is of particular concern that measles cases are climbing in Europe,” says Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe. “Today’s travel patterns put no person or country beyond the reach of the measles virus. Outbreaks will continue in Europe, as elsewhere, until every country reaches the level of immunization needed to fully protect their populations.”
Two-thirds of the Region’s 53 countries have interrupted endemic transmission of measles; however, 14 remain endemic, according to the Regional Verification Commission for Measles and Rubella Elimination (RVC).
Unchecked transmission threatens progress
559 measles cases were reported in the Region for January 2017. Of these, 474 cases were reported in 7 of the 14 endemic countries (France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Romania, Switzerland and Ukraine). Preliminary information for February indicates that the number of new infections is sharply rising. In all of these countries, estimated national immunization coverage with the second dose of measles-containing vaccine is less than the 95% threshold.
“I urge all endemic countries to take urgent measures to stop transmission of measles within their borders, and all countries that have already achieved this to keep up their guard and sustain high immunization coverage. Together we must make sure that the hard-earned progress made towards regional elimination is not lost,” continues Dr Jakab.
Current major outbreaks
The largest current measles outbreaks in Europe are taking place in Romania and Italy.
Romania has reported over 3400 cases and 17 deaths since January 2016 (as of 10 March 2017). The majority of cases are concentrated in areas where immunization coverage is especially low.
According to reported data, the 3 measles genotypes circulating in Romania since January 2016 were not spreading in the country before, but were reported in several other European countries and elsewhere in 2015. Comprehensive laboratory and epidemiological data are needed before the origin of infection and routes of transmission can be concluded.
Italy has seen a sharp rise in cases in the first weeks of 2017. With 238 cases reported so far for January 2017 and preliminary information indicating at least as many cases for February, the total number of cases reported for 2016 (approximately 850) may soon be surpassed.