Measles outbreak in Switzerland: update

Bern, Switzerland and Vaud, Switzerland (GenevaLunch) – Swiss federal health authorities late Thursday issued an alert about the measles outbreak in Vaud this week, reminding people that the virus causes serious illness and vaccinations are the only protection against the potentially deadly disease. Fifty new cases have been declared in Switzerland since the start of 2009, half of them this week alone, in Vaud – the number of cases seen in a total year when there is not an epidemic. [Ed. note: see "Measles outbreak unprecedented," GL, 5 February]. Four new schools were affected Thursday when brothers and sisters of the 17 students with measles from the Rudolf Steiner school in Crissier also fell ill.

Children and teenagers who have not been vaccinated and who have had contact with anyone with measles must by law be sent home for three weeks.

Bern noted that since November 2006 Switzerland has seen 3,400 cases of measles, with one death last week in Geneva, 250 hospitalizations and 500 complications that included 143 cases of pneumonia and 8 cases of encephalitis. Six people have died in Europe from measles in recent years. There is no treatment for the disease.

Ninety-three percent of those treated for measles in Switzerland were not fully vaccinated. The government recommends two vaccinations, at 12 months with a followup at 15-24 months. One concern is young people who received the initial vaccination but not the followup. Health authorities recommends vaccinations for anyone born after 1963 who is not vaccinated and who has not had measles.

Bern notes that measles has been eradicated in North and South America as well as in Finland. Switzerland is the hardest hit country in Europe, with its three-year-old epidemic and the only way to eradicate the disease is to achieve a 95% vaccination coverage for young children. Nationwide, the coverage is currently 86%.

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