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The Measles Outbreak Europe in 2020

Measles is one of the infectious diseases that’s been causing health troubles for many nations including Europe. In 2019, the World Health Organization[1] announced significantly high measles cases reported in 42 countries of the European region. The worst-case number was 13 mortality cases in 3 countries: Romania, Albania, and Ukraine. The mortality rate in Ukraine, unfortunately, reached the highest peak among these countries.

So what is measles? How could it raise the death rate? And how the measles outbreak Europe happen? Here in this article, we can figure out all these questions.

Measles Outbreak Europe

Reports in 2018 shows that about 537,303 children in the cohort (representing 2,129,864 person-years), 440,655 (82.0 percent) had received the MMR vaccine[2]. But the outbreak of measles in Europe keeps rising and has no signs of stopping. Why is that? But first, let’s take a glance at some fundamental knowledge about this detrimental disease.

What is measles?

Measles is a highly contagious disease that causes by a certain virus. It’s a serious disease that can be very fatal, especially among young children. When you get infected by this virus, your body will undergo a series of phases. 

The first phase is infection and incubation, which happens on the first 10 to 14 days when the virus incubates. During this time, symptoms won’t yet show up. 

The second phase is the presence of signs and symptoms, which can be non-specific. First symptoms are mild fever, coming along with a persistent cough, inflaming eyes, sore throat, and runny nose. These symptoms would often last for two to three days.

The third phase is when acute illness and rashes would appear. The rashes consist of tiny red spots, some of which can be slightly raised. In the next few days, the rashes can spread rapidly over the body while the fever can rise drastically. After this period, the rashes slowly fade away starting from the face down to the thighs and feet.

measles outbreak Europe
The symptoms include tiny red spots

In the first three phases during the communicable period, the disease can actively infect other people in the first four days before the rash comes up and another four days since the rash’s first appearance.

What are the risk factors?

There are three risk factors that can pose risks to your health. Immediately contact a medical emergency to check If you experience to one of 3 factors below: you’ve travelled from countries where measles is common, or you are not vaccinated against measles, or you are deficient in vitamin A. 

Why Measles Outbreak in Europe?

The ongoing measles outbreak in Europe, especially in Ukraine, have occured by individuals getting the virus from epidemic places. These unprotected individuals did not either vaccinate or know whether they got vaccinated or not.

In fact, most cases in Europe as well as in the US, occurred in unvaccinated or under-vaccinated patients. Under-vaccinated patients did not have updated measles vaccination, which made them less protected from the measles virus.

The European region still continues to have widely circulated measles infection despite the outbreak response measures because of population immunity gaps[3] and suboptimal vaccination coverage. This is why health organizations and entities continue to advise countries and their respective governments to take precautionary measures.

Country leaders and their health officials should protect their population from measles through high routine and supplemental immunization coverage. Such efforts should be encouraged more since there are no countries that can avoid or prevent importation.

Where is Measles Outbreak in Europe?

The dramatic rise of measles cases in Europe put pressure on the public. There are 42 countries across the European region got detrimental effects because of the outbreak. Even Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan were also in the emergency action response, with each having around 9,000 and 2,000 measles cases respectively.

Measles is already considered to be an epidemic disease[4] in certain parts of Europe. The first four countries were at risk by a drastic rise in measles cases, making Europe a no longer safe from this contagious disease. Health professionals have been calling for the public’s cooperation since there is a decline in vaccination due to the vaccine hesitancy increase. 

The health organizations are encouraging everyone to do their best along with the government’s outbreak measures. The outbreak response measures include improving immunization, working with family doctors, addressing parents’ questions and concerns about vaccines; calling for a summit meeting with social media companies to talk about promoting vaccine campaigns.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control also releases data on their website about the recent measles cases across the region. The health professionals keep reminding everyone that measles does not affect a single age group, but all age groups, hence a much larger vaccination drive is in need.

Of course, you can also check their website for the vaccine schedule, so no one was left behind as a vaccine drive comes.

Ukraine Measles

During 2016, there are over 1 million measles cases reported and the number kept rising dramatically in 2019. The Norwegian Institute of Public Health recommends that people traveling to Ukraine and Poland who didn’t have vaccination should take the vaccine in advance.

The Ukraine outbreak first occurred in the border areas of Poland, Hungary and Slovakia. The outbreak then spread to more locations without any notice in only next few months. As vaccine coverage in Ukraine is low and measles is a highly infectious disease, people were exposed to measles easily. People who didn’t get vaccination or had a weak immune system are at high risk of infection.

Measles Outbreak Europe
Stomach with red rush spots from measles

Immunisation programme in Norway found out that measles is the most common disease in children. Among children’s disease that can be prevented by vaccine, measles is widely known as the number one dead cause globally. Infants and young children are most infectious, however, older children can get ill with measles if there were any protection.

Vaccination for Measles Outbreak in Ukraine

Vaccine Shortage In Ukraine

Back in 2010, vaccine coverage in this country has dramatically decreased , according to WHO/UNICEF reports. Vaccination was 56 per cent for one dose[5] of MMR vaccine and 41 per cent for two doses. Low vaccine coverage has also been reported for other vaccines (diphtheria-tetanus-whooping cough 52 per cent, polio 58 per cent). But in the present, the report shows that the situation has changed. There are enough vaccine coverage for all regions in Ukraine. About 1.1 million doses of MMR vaccine provided to Ukraine’s people that meets the needs of the whole country.

Because there are no more vaccine shortage in Norway, the risk of an outbreak is not comparable. However, we should protect ourselves beforehand, so that we can avoid a second wave of this pandemic.

In Norway, measles immunization includes 2 doses of MMR that has occurred at the 15-month age and 11 years old.

Vaccine advice 

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health highly recommends that people traveling to Ukraine should have a better protection against pandemics like measles. A shot of MMR vaccine is taken into consideration before traveling. The vaccine might be active from 2 to 3 weeks after vaccination, so make sure that you have a right time schedule before the departure. For those who had medical history, you must ask for your doctor’s advice before taking vaccination.

In additional, infants from 9 months can get the first vaccine. If the first MMR vaccine[6] has been taken before 12-month age, then at 15-month age, they should get another MMR shot.

Conclusion

The measles outbreak Europe calls forth for more serious measures to battle with this contagious disease that can affect anyone. Therefore, everyone should take vaccination with measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine for widespread immunity against this fatal disease.

Frequently Asked Questions

When should we see a doctor?

Call your doctor immediately if you think that your child has been exposed to measles virus or if your child has rashes that resemble measles rashes. You also need to review your family’s vaccination records before any of your children attends elementary, college, or if anyone in your family is traveling internationally.

How does the measles virus spread?

When someone contracts the disease, the virus replicates in the nose or throat of anyone who is infected. The person who is infected poses a threat to everyone because when he/she coughs, sneezes, or talks, the infected droplets can get into the air and other people can inhale them. Additionally, the infected droplets can fall in certain surfaces where they can stay active and contagious for several hours. You can then get infected when you touch your skin after being exposed to the infected surface.

What are the possible complications brought by measles?

These are complications you can possibly acquire when you have measles – ear infection, pneumonia, bronchitis, encephalitis, and pregnancy problems for pregnant women.

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  1. WHO European report. 2019. Measles – European Region. Available from: https://www.who.int/csr/don/06-may-2019-measles-euro/en/
  2. Kreesten Meldgaard Madsen, Anders Hviid, et al. 2002 [November 7, 2002]. A Population-Based Study of Measles, Mumps, and Rubella Vaccination and Autism. Available from: https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/nejmoa021134
  3. David Durrheim. 2018. The Journal of Infectious Diseases, 218(3), 341–343. Available from: https://academic.oup.com/jid/article/218/3/341/4942537
  4. National Center for Health Statistics. 2012. Introduction to Epidemiology. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/csels/dsepd/ss1978/lesson1/section11.html
  5. Abigail Shefer. 2011. Immunization of Health-Care Personnel. Atlanta: National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/pdf/rr/rr6007.pdf
  6. Parent du Chaatelet, D Antona, et al. 2010. Spotlight on measles 2010: Update on the ongoing measles outbreak in France, 2008-2010. Available from: https://www.eurosurveillance.org/content/10.2807/ese.15.36.19656-en#html_fulltext
Healthcanal Staff
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Healthcanal Staff

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