Measles and rubella update: fewer cases than last year but new outbreaks reported in several countries

Measles

Data reported to WHO by Member States show that the number of measles cases in the European Region for the first quarter of 2014 (6335) was 19% lower than that reported for the corresponding period in 2013. However, several countries have experienced new outbreaks in 2014 while in others measles transmission has intensified.

The relatively large proportion of measles cases in children <5 years of age (28%) and adults >20 years of age (43%) in the Region is important to note as the risk of serious measles-related complications (such as acute pneumonia and acute encephalitis) is increased in these age groups.

Transmission within health care settings is also of particular concern because of the risk of spread and serious complications among infant and adult patients who may already be debilitated from other medical conditions. Both patients and health care workers of all ages have been involved in outbreaks involving health care settings.

WHO therefore strongly recommends that health authorities consider vaccination of susceptible health care workers against measles and rubella, and other vaccine-preventable (such as pertussis and chickenpox), as a standard of care in the context of occupational health but also patient safety.  

Rubella

Rubella continues to be reported in much fewer countries than measles. Although still too high, the number of reported cases in the European Region for the first quarter of 2014 is 77% lower than that reported for the corresponding period in 2013 (n=10 543).

This is primarily because the number of rubella cases reported in Poland dropped from 10 441 in 2013 to 2349 for the same period in 2014. Nevertheless, the lack of a response measure to control the outbreak in Poland has left immunity gaps in the population, which remains a challenge to the European Region’s goal of eliminating the disease by 2015. 

WHO EpiBrief

WHO EpiBrief no. 2 /2014 released today provides more information on the epidemiological situation for measles and rubella in the WHO European Region during the first quarter of 2014.