The World Health Organization is reporting that there were more than 26 thousand reported cases of measles in thirty-six countries within Europe so far in 2011. Eighty three percent of which were in west European countries including 14 thousand in France alone. England and Wales, confirmed a level of slightly below 1 thousand definite measles cases in this time since January. This compares with just 374 in the whole of the previous year. Nine avoidable fatalities have occurred with six of them being in France and a huge number of cases (7,288) requiring hospital treatment.
A little late but clearly needed, the French authorities have instigated a national awareness raising campaign of the need for MMR triple vaccination. The Director-General for Health in France, states the obvious when he said:
“France can simply not afford to have deaths, painful and costly hospitalizations, disruptions to work and school from a completely vaccine-preventable disease.”
90% of the cases in Europe were in the adolescent and adult populations where vaccinations had definitely not been given or where people did not know one way or the other, if they had had the MMR or not. Furthermore measles is spreading from Europe and has been identified as the source of outbreaks in a small number of other countries such as Brazil, Canada and Australia.
The seriousness of this potential epidemic cannot be overstated and the situation is all the more frustrating because measles is completely avoidable. Up until this year the goal had been to make measles history in Europe by 2015. The achievement of that public health goal now looks to be seriously in doubt.
Zsuzsanna Jakab, European regional director for the WHO believes the spike in cases in countries across Europe, but particularly the west is now a “serious challenge” to achievement of the region’s health goals. She went on to say; “Every country in the European region must take the opportunity now to raise coverage amongst susceptible populations, improve surveillance and severely reduce measles virus circulation before the approaching measles high season.”
The Health Protection Agency, responsible for England and Wales, are concerned for anyone who missed out on the MMR vaccine when young because they are most at risk from measles mumps and rubella. Unfortunately there was an epidemic of fear that the triple vaccine was related to autism. The fears proved groundless but as the old adage goes, a rumour will go twice round the globe before the truth can even get its boots on.
The HPA are again prompting parents and young adults that it is essential to get immunised. The latest WHO report again makes the case for how serious measles is serious and shows once again that it can be fatal. Measles in particular is an extremely contagious and potentially life threatening disease. It spreads quickly and is impossible to contain. So whether you stay reside in the UK and travel outside of it, it is vital that if you haven’t already been then do get yourself fully immunised.