Measles in European Countries Impact Children
The May 2018 report from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control regarding the measles outbreak is loaded with ‘bad-news’.
For the European Region as a whole, there have been more measles cases reported during 2018, than in the previous 5 years combined.
This negative trend is one reason the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued Travel Alert Level 1 for several EU countries.
Measles is among the most contagious viral diseases known, and humans are the only natural host for sustaining measles virus transmission.
This new report says 21 EU/EEA countries have confirmed 2,143 cases of measles for March 2018.
Specifically, the countries of France, Greece, and Italy continued to report increasing numbers of measles cases. France reported 753 cases, Greece reported 549 cases and Italy reported 326 cases.
Additionally, Portugal reported 109 new measles cases during March 2018, which is an increase from just 4 cases in February 2018.
Not only is measles continuing to spread in most EU countries, but infants are the most impacted.
As of May 2018, the EU has reported 28 infant deaths related to measles.
The proportion of unvaccinated measles cases was highest among children below 1 year of age.
Infants under 1 year are particularly vulnerable to complications from measles and are best protected by herd immunity, which is achieved when population coverage for the second dose of a measles-containing vaccine is at least 95 percent.
Only 5 EU/EEA countries reported at least 95% vaccination coverage for both doses of measles-containing vaccine.
Measles is transmitted from person to person primarily by the airborne route as aerosolized droplet nuclei. Infected people are usually contagious from 4 days before until 4 days after rash onset.
Which is why the US CDC recommends travelers to the EU ensure their measles vaccinations are up to date.
Additionally, the CDC says people 6 months of age and older who will be traveling internationally should be protected against measles.
And, women of childbearing age should check with their doctor to make sure they are vaccinated before they get pregnant. Women of childbearing age who do not have evidence of immunity should get at least one dose of MMR vaccine.
“As the 2018 summer travel season kicks off, it is important that one is up-to-date on their vaccines”, said Samir Balile, RPh, Pharm.D. Clinical Programs Specialist at Giant Pharmacy.
“The recent rise in cases of measles in many European nations is something that should be of concern to travelers. The safest and most effective way an individual can protect themselves from the measles is through immunization”, says Balile.
"Regardless, of where your travels take you, a pharmacist is a great resource who is trained to identify and administer potential vaccines that you and your family need in order to have a safe and happy summer."
In the USA, two approved measles vaccines are available, MMR-II and ProQuad.
Measles vaccines, like any medicine, can have side effects, says the CDC. You are encouraged to report negative side effects of vaccines to the FDA or CDC.