The number of people infected with measles in Europe is predicted to rise. The virus continues to spread across Europe causing eight deaths last year, prompting top officials to declare it a public health priority.
Last year, 26 people in Europe suffered a sudden swelling of the brain due to measles infections, and 1,000 people were affected by pneumonia, according to the European agency in charge of public health protection. The problem, authorities say, appears likely to be worsening.
While France and Bulgaria have hit the headlines for their exceptionally high rates of measles in 2010 and 2011, paediatricians in Spain are now calling for earlier vaccination in an effort to deal with rising numbers of new infections. Meanwhile, new outbreaks have also been reported in several Western European countries, as well as in Ukraine and Russia.
“Currently we are at our lowest seasonal level for measles transmission in the EU, but we anticipate an increase in coming months,” he said.
Serious complications were more common among infants aged less than one year, according to the ECDC’s monthly measles report. Authorities do not always know whether patients have been vaccinated, but in cases where this information was available 82% of cases were in unvaccinated people.
The peak period for the spread of the disease is the end of January so the number of new cases is expected to start increasing in the coming weeks. In previous years doctors have reported seeing more cases from the end of January before recording further steep rises in February and March.
So how does your country fare?
Health authorities have produced a map of measles rates across Europe. It’s not a pretty picture: large chunks of Western Europe have seen ‘high’ levels of measles while the rate remains ‘very high’ in France and Bulgaria.