Analysis of measles and pertussis outbreaks and response in 2016

Measles and rubella surveillance data are regularly analysed to identify characteristics of cases and outbreaks reported throughout the European Region. The first issue of WHO EpiBrief for 2017 reveals that the highest burden of measles disease in 2016 fell on young, unvaccinated children, but that thousands of adults were also affected. The report also describes the outbreak response in Italy and Romania and provides data on a pertussis outbreak that took place in Denmark in 2016.

EpiBrief highlights: measles and rubella overview

33 of 53 countries in the European Region reported measles cases for 2016. The total of 5133 cases included 15 measles-related deaths in Romania and 1 in the United Kingdom. 82% of the total cases were reported by 4 countries: Romania 47%, Italy 17%, United Kingdom 11% and Germany 6%. The burden of disease fell mostly on children aged 0-4 years and adults 20 years and older. 87% of cases with known vaccination status were unvaccinated. The most predominant measles virus strain was reported by 10 countries.

Measles outbreak response in Italy and Romania

Transmission of measles has continued in 2017 in Italy and Romania among other countries in the Region. EpiBrief outlines some of the measures taken so far in these countries to stop the outbreaks. In Italy this has included notifying suspected cases, tracing contacts and offering post-exposure prophylaxis and vaccination. The Ministry of Health has been assisted it its response by a network of laboratories for measles and rubella and also all the administrative regions, academia and the national public health institute.
In Romania, the recommended age to receive the first measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) vaccine dose has been lowered from 12 months to 9 months. At the same time a nationwide campaign of enhanced routine immunization activities has been undertaken to identify unvaccinated and incompletely vaccinated children aged between 9 months and 9 years and to vaccinate them according to the national childhood immunization revised schedule.

Pertussis in Denmark

Despite high vaccination coverage Denmark experienced 2096 laboratory-confirmed cases of pertussis in 2016, corresponding to an incidence of 37 per 100 000 inhabitants. The highest incidence was in infants of less than 12 months of age.

In response, health authorities issued press releases to raise awareness and stress the importance of timely vaccination. They also disseminated information about the outbreak to healthcare workers throughout Denmark.