A new report today describing the large scale of measles outbreaks in European countries underscores their serious public health and economic implications. The World Health Organization European Region’s report emphasizes the urgent actions European countries should take to prevent measles outbreaks in 2012 and beyond, particularly with the approaching high season for measles transmission.
The WHO’s newest measles summary in the Weekly Epidemiological Record reports more than 26,000 cases of measles in 36 European countries from January-October 2011, with more than 14,000 of those in France. Despite strong health systems, Western European countries have reported 83% of these cases. These outbreaks have caused nine deaths, including six in France, and 7288 hospitalizations.
The peak months for measles outbreaks in Europe are typically from February through to May.
The outbreak in Western Europe is amongst the largest in the world in 2011, together with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (>100 000 cases), Nigeria and Somalia (both with >15 000 recorded cases).
Measles from Europe has been linked to outbreaks in several other countries including Brazil, Canada, and Australia and is responsible for the majority of the outbreaks, along with the South-East Asia Region, in the United States, which this year is suffering the highest number of measles cases since 1996.
The majority of European cases (90%) were amongst adolescents and adults who had not been vaccinated or for whom vaccination history was not reported.