Rubella is on the march. Figures from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) reveal that 22,835 rubella cases were reported between June 2011 and June 2012, representing a significant increase on the previous year.
Even some countries previously on the verge of eliminating rubella have suffered setbacks. Sweden reported its largest rubella outbreak since 1996, a phenomenon the ECDC says is associated with low vaccine uptake rates among the anthroposophical community south of Stockholm.
There was better news on Europe’s battle against measles. Official figures show no new large outbreaks of the disease. In the 12 months to June 2012, a total of 10,427 cases were reported. 90% of these were notified by health authorities in France, Italy, Romania, Spain and the United Kingdom.
At its peak, the measles outbreak that began spreading across Europe in 2010 hit 30,000 cases per annum, leading authorities in the US to issue health warnings to people traveling to France where the epidemic was most severe. An intensive campaign has been underway across the continent to contain the spread of the disease.
Europe aims to eliminate measles and rubella by 2015. Vaccines against both diseases are part of routine childhood immunisation schedules across Europe (usually in the form of the MMR vaccine) but the goal of wiping out these illnesses will not be met unless vaccination rates increase.