Measles outbreak follows dog show

Gary Finnegan

Gary Finnegan

December 22nd, 2014

Gary Finnegan

‘Slovenia became ‘measles-free’ more than a decade ago but a new outbreak has been traced by to an international dog show it hosted in early November’

Forgive the provocative headline – dogs have nothing to do with the spread of measles in humans. But highly-contagious airborne diseases such as measles love mass gatherings.

You might recall a story we posted in September about measles outbreaks in Germany and Slovenia which were traced back to one busy week in 2011 in the Italian city of Rimini. (For more see this Eurosurveillance study.)

On that occasion, measles had spread at a youth football competition and a kickboxing tournament with competitors bringing the virus back to their home countries where they infected several other people.

This time, experts believe a fresh outbreak in Slovenia began at an international dog show. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) says that 19 new measles cases were reported in Slovenia in November – 17 of which were in people who attended the dog show on November 8 and 9.

“There is strong epidemiological evidence that the audience and exhibitors at this event were exposed to a person with measles,” says the ECDC. The other two cases in Slovenia were imported from Bosnia and Herzegovina where there is a large ongoing outbreak since February 2014.

This outbreak in Slovenia – and the 2011 outbreak following the Italian kickboxing tournament – show how easily infectious diseases can spread in Europe.

This is all the more notable given that Slovenia has high vaccination uptake and had essentially stopped the spread of measles for almost a decade.

From 2000 to 2009 there were no reported cases of measles in Slovenia. There were just 27 cases between 2010 and 2013, and now it seems there will be at least 19 recorded cases in 2014.

The ECDC says the risk of re-establishment of endemic measles in Slovenia is low but warns that other exhibitors at the event could have been exposed. People from 27 European countries attended the dog show.

The bottom line is that if Europe is to eliminate measles, immunisation rates have to be high right across Europe. Slovenia played its part more than a decade ago but is a victim of lower vaccine uptake elsewhere in Europe.