Concerts, sporting events, and religious festivals all offer the measles virus an ideal opportunity to infect thousands more victims, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).
It highlights World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain, which takes place in August and is expected to bring together over 350,000 people – mostly teenagers and young adults – from around the world.
Officials fear that large public gatherings will see further outbreaks across Europe and across the globe. The ECDC said it is monitoring all infectious diseases but cited measles as being of particular concern.
“During 2011 and up to 15 June, more than 12,000 cases of measles have been identified by ECDC in the EU and EEA/EFTA countries through epidemic intelligence activities,” the ECDC said in a statement.
The majority of cases have been reported from France where the official figure (as of the middle of June) stands at 7,321.
Spain (1,812) and Germany (1,037) have also seen dramatic surges, while other European countries continue to record higher-than-normal infection rates: Switzerland (554), United Kingdom (345), Belgium (382), Romania (254), Italy (170), Denmark (79), Norway (26) and Sweden (17).
‘Un-vaccinated at most risk’
The vast majority of case reports continue to be in un-vaccinated individuals, the ECDC said, adding that cases amongst healthcare workers have also been reported.
“Mass gathering events represent a risk for the spread of communicable diseases. The importance of pre-travel health advice in case of mass gathering events is well-known: persons travelling to these events can be exposed to infectious diseases such as measles and carry the acquired infections back to their home countries where they infect other people,” the ECDC said.
The authorities stressed the importance for European citizens to be vaccinated against measles if they have not already been vaccinated or have not previously had measles. The vaccine should be administered according to their national authority recommendations, it said.