Ukraine Leads Europe’s Measles Outbreak with 55,776 Cases

Brooklyn and Rockland Counties of New York have reported approximately 81 percent of the measles cases in 2019

ukrainian boys

Although the European Region achieved its highest-ever estimated coverage for the 2nd dose of measles vaccination in 2017 (~90%), most measles cases are occurring in unvaccinated or under-vaccinated individuals. 

And international travelers are visiting countries where the most contagious of all infectious diseases is actively spreading, such as in Israel, LondonNew York City

But, the overall leader in reporting measles cases in 2019 is the eastern European country of Ukraine.

According to the operational data of the Center for Public Health of Ukraine, from December 28, 2018, to July 4, 2019, 55,776 people suffered from the measles virus, and 18 people died from the complications of the measles. 

Furthermore, since the summer of 2017, more than 110,000 Ukrainians became ill with measles, and 39 died from complications.

As the rate of measles morbidity in Ukraine continues to grow, the Ministry of Health of Ukraine together with the Center for Public Health calls on the regions to carry out special operations to combat the outbreak of measles.

The primary tactic to stop any measles outbreak is vaccination with the MMR vaccine.   

Since the measles virus can live in the air and on surfaces for 2 hours, 90 percent of unvaccinated people in contact with the patient will be infected. 

In Ukraine, infants can be vaccinated for measles at age 6 months. For reliable immunity from this contagious disease, all children must receive both the first and second dose of measles vaccine in a timely manner. 

Moreover, the cost of the measles vaccine is not a substantive issue, since Ukraine provides free vaccinations for both children and adults, regardless of age.

The measles disease can be severe and lead to serious complications - pneumonia, ear infection, brain inflammation (encephalitis), as well as disability and death. 

There is no specific treatment for measles.

To alert international travelers of their risk when visiting Ukraine, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Canadian Health Agency, and the UK issued Travel Advisories during 2019.

Additionally, the CDC issued new vaccination guidelines for children and adults visiting measles outbreak locations. The CDC guidelines published on May 13, 2019, say ‘children 6–11 months of age should receive 1 dose of Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) or the MMR Varicella vaccine, at least 2 weeks prior to international travel.   

In the USA, from January 1 to July 3, 2019, the CDC has confirmed 1,109 individual cases of measles in 28 states. The Jewish community living in Brooklyn (620) and Rockland (278) Counties of New York have reported approximately 81 percent of these measles cases. 

The entire state of Texas has only reported 17 measles cases, as of July 10, 2019. 

Measles symptoms

Measles is highly contagious and can spread to others through coughing and sneezing. Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, most people close to that person who are not immune to the virus will also become infected.

Measles symptoms appear 7 to 14 days after contact with the virus and typically include high fever, cough, runny nose, and watery eyes. The measles rash appears 3 to 5 days after the first symptoms.

Three to five days after symptoms begin, a rash breaks out. It usually begins as flat red spots that appear on the face at the hairline and spread downward to the neck, trunk, arms, legs, and feet.

Measles prevention

If you are planning a trip outside of the USA this summer, it is now easy to check whether you need another measles vaccine. 

The CDC published an updated digital application on July 1, 2019, that enables international travelers to quickly and privately self-qualify whether or not they need a measles vaccination before departure.

This digital app evaluates all available evidence and updates vaccination recommendations as new information becomes available, says the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

Measles vaccines

The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from the measles virus is by getting vaccinated, says the CDC.

You should plan to be fully vaccinated at least 2 weeks before you depart. If your trip is less than 2 weeks away and you’re not protected against measles, you should still get a dose of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine.

To schedule a pre-trip vaccine and medication counseling session with a local pharmacy, please visit Vax-Before-Travel.

As of July 1, 2019, the CDC updated its private sector vaccine prices for general information. And, the CDC’s Vaccines For Children program offers vaccines at no cost to children who might not otherwise be vaccinated because of inability to pay. 

Additional financial support programs can be found at Vaccine Discounts.   

Vaccines, like any medicine, can have side effects. You are encouraged to report vaccine side effects to the CDC.