In Romania, Italy and Germany, the tragic trend continues: Data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) show that from January 2016 to October 2017, nearly 19,000 measles cases were reported in the EU. Of these, 44 people are dead.
The vast majority of cases over the past 12 months (87%) were unvaccinated. Some of those who died were too young or too sick to be vaccinated; some had opted out of vaccination (or their parents opted out); and some had received the vaccine but still caught the virus.
The highest number of cases in 2017 were reported in Romania (7,570), Italy (4,617) and Germany (891). ‘The spread of measles across Europe is due to suboptimal vaccination coverage in many EU/EEA countries,’ the ECDC said.
The latest available figures on vaccination coverage collected by WHO show that the vaccination coverage for the first dose of measles was below 95% in 18 of 30 EU/EEA countries; for the second dose of measles, it was below 95% in 20 of 27 EU/EEA countries reporting second dose coverage data.
Adolescents and young adults at risk
Measles increasingly affects all age groups across Europe. In 2016, 25.5% of measles cases were above 20 years of age; in 2017, this percentage increased to 47%.
The three countries most affected by measles over 2016 and the first half of 2017 show different trends: Romania saw a sharp increase in cases from October 2016, and the trend continues in 2017; in Italy, the increasing trend started in January 2017, while in Germany it began in February 2017.
Europe is working to eliminate measles and rubella. Many countries have interrupted endemic transmission of these diseases but the region is still a long way from becoming measles free.