Holidaymakers urged to check vaccination status as measles cases soar

Holidaymakers urged to check vaccination status as cases of measles soar to eight-year high across Europe

  • The World Health Organisation has issued a warning about the number of cases
  • Countries affected include the holiday hot spots of France, Greece and Italy 
  • Across Europe there were over 41,000 measles cases in the first half of 2018
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Holidaymakers have been given fresh warnings to ensure they are vaccinated against measles after it emerged that European cases have reached an eight-year high.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) warned the number of cases of the highly infectious disease during 2018 have already outstripped any year since 2010.

The global health body said holiday hotspots such as France, Greece and Italy as well as Georgia, Russia, Serbia and Ukraine have all had more than 1,000 cases each so far in 2018.

Holidaymakers have been given fresh warnings to ensure they are vaccinated against measles after cases of the disease soared across Europe

Ukraine has been the hardest hit with over 23,000 people affected, it said.

Across Europe there were more than 41,000 measles cases recorded during the first six months of 2018, including 37 deaths.

The WHO said the highest annual total for measles cases since 2010 was recorded in 2017 when 23,927 cases were identified.

Meanwhile, Public Health England (PHE) issued further warnings for people who are travelling to countries with outbreaks.

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It said people should ensure they are up to date with their measles, bumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination before travel.

Meanwhile, those who are starting university or attending festivals should also make sure they are protected.

Figures from the health body show that from January 1 to August 6 there were 807 laboratory confirmed measles cases.

PHE said many cases have been linked to ongoing outbreaks in Europe.

One of the symptoms of measles is a blotchy red-brown rash that usually starts on the head or neck


Measles is a highly contagious virus that spreads via contact with an infected person.

If a pregnant woman who has not been vaccinated becomes infected, she is at greater risk of suffering a miscarriage, stillbirth or premature labour.  

Infected pregnant women suffer the same symptoms as other measles patients.

These include fever, cold, cough and rashes, which are characterised by red spots and bumps on the skin.

Pregnant women showing symptoms of measles, or those who have been in contact with an infected person, should contact their GP or midwife immediately.

They will then undergo a blood test to determine if they are immune to measles.

If not, they may require an injection to boost their immune-cell counts, which should help to reduce their measles symptoms and the impact of the infection on their babies.

It said 58 per cent of confirmed cases have been among children aged 15 and younger, who missed out on their MMR vaccine when they were younger.

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at PHE, said: ‘We have seen a number of measles outbreaks in England which are linked to ongoing large outbreaks in Europe.

‘Anyone who missed out on their MMR vaccine in the past or are unsure if they had two doses should contact their GP practice to catch-up.

‘We would encourage people to ensure they are up to date with their MMR vaccine before travelling to countries with ongoing measles outbreaks, heading to large gatherings such as festivals, or before starting university.’

And Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO regional director for Europe, added: ‘Following the decade’s lowest number of cases in 2016, we are seeing a dramatic increase in infections and extended outbreaks.

‘We call on all countries to immediately implement broad, context-appropriate measures to stop further spread of this disease.’

Measles is a highly infectious viral illness and can be deadly in some cases.

Early signs of illness include cold-like symptoms, sore eyes that may be sensitive to light, fever and small greyish-white spots on the inside of the cheeks.

Measles is a highly infectious viral illness and can be deadly in some cases. Early signs of the disease include cold-like symptoms 


Measles is a highly contagious viral infection that spreads easily from an injected person by coughing, sneezing or even just breathing.

Symptoms develop between six and 19 days after infection, and include a runny nose, cough, sore eyes, a fever and a rash.

The rash appears as red and blotchy marks on the hairline that travel down over several days, turning brown and eventually fading. 

Some children complain of disliking bright lights or develop white spots with red backgrounds on their tongue.

In one in 15 cases, measles can cause life-threatening complications including pneumonia, convulsions and encephalitis.

Dr Ava Easton, chief executive of the Encephalitis Society told MailOnline: ‘Measles can be very serious. 

‘[It] can cause encephalitis which is inflammation of the brain. 

‘Encephalitis can result in death or disability.’

Treatment focuses on staying hydrated, resting and taking painkillers, if necessary.

Measles can be prevented by receiving two vaccinations, the first at 13 months old and the second at three years and four months to five years old.

Source: Great Ormond Street Hospital 

A few days later a blotchy red-brown rash will appear, usually starting on the head or neck.

Commenting on the WHO figures, Dr Pauline Paterson, co-director of the Vaccine Confidence Project team at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: ‘With a vaccine-preventable disease, one case is one too many, and the number of measles cases so far this year is astounding.

‘While most people vaccinate, some individuals do not. The reasons for non-vaccination can vary from issues of vaccine access, a lack of perceived need to vaccinate, and concerns around the safety of vaccination – in 2016 the Vaccine Confidence Project found that the European region was the most sceptical in the world on vaccine safety.

‘Vaccines work. If measles is to be eliminated, we must continue to further our understanding of the underlying reasons for non-vaccination and to address them with effective evidence-based interventions.’

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