The European Centre for Disease prevention and Control (ECDC) has provided an update on the measles situation in Europe, in which an ongoing outbreak in Romania was highlighted, with a total of 3,799 measles cases reported between September 2016 and 17 March 2017.
As of 17 February 2017, a total of 16 deaths have been reported in Romania, all in people who were immunocompromised or had other health problems. An intensive vaccination programme is ongoing. In 2016, a number of other European countries reported measles cases, this increase in numbers continues in 2017. From February 2016 to January 2017, six European countries: the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK also reported measles cases where the probable country of infection was Romania.
Measles is a highly infectious illness spread by airborne/droplet transmission. Symptoms include fever, runny nose, conjunctivitis and cough. A rash then usually develops, starting at the head, then spreading to the trunk and limbs, over three to four days. Individuals are infectious from their first symptoms to four days after the rash appears and the incubation period is about ten days.
Advice for travellers
The UK’s National Travel Health Network and Centre commented on the risk of measles infections to travellers in Europe: “As part of your travel preparation, make sure you are up-to-date with all currently recommended UK vaccines including measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. Two doses of MMR are needed for a person to be considered fully protected.” The MMR vaccine can be given from six months of age before travel to a risk country and/or where an outbreak is occurring.
The advice continued: “If you have not had measles (the illness) or if you have not had two doses of MMR, you may be at risk if visiting countries reporting cases. This is especially a concern if staying with friends or family, mixing with the local population or going to mass gatherings like festivals, sports events or pilgrimages. Measles is easily passed from person to person and can be a serious illness in adults (as well as children). It is never too late to have the vaccine.”