France under fire as measles epidemics spread

Gary Finnegan

Gary Finnegan

October 25th, 2011

Gary Finnegan

‘French authorities are struggling to contain an explosion of measles cases as the disease continues to spread across Europe.’

Measles-epidemicsFigures from the WHO Europe show a total of 26,025 confirmed cases had been recorded across the 53-region area by the end of July, with France accounting for more than 14,000 of the total.

The number of measles cases in France has risen sharply since 2008 with a major epidemic grabbing the headlines last year. However, 2011 is on course to dwarf last year’s total.

Eleven deaths have been attributed to measles in the European region in the first half of the year. Six of these were in France, with one each in Germany, Kyrgyzstan, Romania, Macedonia and the UK.

“Member States have responded to the outbreak by modifying the vaccination schedule, like France, or by offering vaccination free of charge or in schools, to increase accessibility to and availability of vaccines,” the WHO reported in a note on measles outbreaks.

Meanwhile, several large outbreaks have also been reported in Africa, as well as a spike in cases in the Americas and in New Zealand where the Rugby World Cup is currently being held.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is reported to have had over 103,000 cases; Nigeria has had 17,428 cases; Zambia is reporting 5,397 cases; and Ethiopia has had 2,902 cases, according to official figures.

WHO representatives on the ground in the DRC estimate that around 1,100 people have died from measles-associated complications this year to date.

In the Americas, where the last case of endemic measles was reported in 2002, this year has seen several outbreaks which health officials suspect originated in Europe. Quebec, Canada, has reported 742 cases – 89 of which required hospitalisation while the US has had 213 cases.

Ecuador (41 cases), Brazil (18 cases), Columbia (7 cases), Mexico (3 cases), and Chile (6 cases) have also seen outbreaks, primarily due to the disease being imported from Europe.

Health authorities continue to remind the public to be vaccinated as part of a global effort to stem the spread of the disease.

Read our extensive measles coverage

Distribution of measles cases identified through epidemic intelligence (2011) and 2 dose measles vaccine coverage (2009, CISID*); EU and EEA/EFTA countries


(Image: Courtesy of ECDC)