ECDC warns of upsurge of measles in Europe: unvaccinated people are at risk


In 2007, several European countries experienced high numbers of measles cases, notably Switzerland, and to a lesser extent the United Kingdom (UK) and Romania (more than one case per 100,000 population per year). Full data for measles cases in Europe for 2007 can be found on the website of EUVAC.Net, a European Union (EU) -funded Surveillance Community Network for Vaccine Preventable Infectious Diseases [1].

So far in 2008, over 1,300 measles cases have been reported in Europe. These cases have been in Switzerland, the UK, France, Denmark, Germany, Austria, Spain and Norway (unpublished EU data). The European Union alert system for communicable diseases guarantees that information on these outbreaks is shared between the Member States, the European Commission, the ECDC and the World Health Organization. On April 2, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States (US) issued a health advisory regarding cases in several US states, some of which were linked to ongoing outbreaks in Europe and Israel [2]. Since then, more US states and Canada have reported additional cases [3,4,5,6,].

In Europe, very few countries have reached the target of 95% measles vaccination coverage which is necessary to prevent outbreaks and eliminate the disease. Different factors contribute to low vaccination coverage, e.g. some people refuse to be vaccinated, and other groups may be hard to reach such as nomadic populations or specific religious communities [7]. This results in a significant proportion of the European population remaining at risk for acquiring measles. Exposure to the virus may come from travellers who have visited outbreak-affected or endemic areas, as has been reported in the US.

ECDC would like to raise awareness of the ongoing measles outbreaks in several European countries and wants to use this as an opportunity to reiterate the importance of measles vaccination, which is the best available measure for preventing infection. Full protection is obtained by two consecutive doses of measles-containing vaccine. Further details on vaccination schedules can be obtained from national authorities.

In the light of the World Health Organization’s goal to eliminate measles in the European Region by the year 2010, the current outbreaks are worrying. Improving measles vaccination coverage is essential to containing and preventing further such outbreaks, and for reaching the goal of elimination [7].


1. EUVAC.NET, a surveillance community network for vaccine-preventable infectious diseases. Available from:

2. Measles outbreaks in the United States: Public health preparedness, control and response in healthcare settings and the community. Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, Atlanta, United States. 2 April 2008. Health advisory. Available from:

3. Health Department advises New York city residents to make sure they have had measles shots before traveling abroad. New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, New York, United States. 8 April 2008. Press release. Available from:

4. Possible measles exposure in SeaTac Airport on March 26, 2008. Public Health, Seattle & King County, Seattle, United States. 9 April 2008. News article. Available from:

5. Girl With Measles At Home; Health Officials On Watch. American Broadcasting Corporation (WISN). 8 April 2008. News article. Available from:

6. Increase in cases of measles in Toronto. Toronto Public Health, Toronto, Canada. April 4 2008. Press release. Available from:

7. World Health Organization. (2003) Strategic plan for measles and congenital rubella infection in the European Region of WHO. Available from: