Measles in Germany: more than half of the cases in only one federal state

Measles in Germany: more than half of the cases in only one federal state

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Almost a thousand measles diseases in Germany - a federal state particularly affected

According to health experts, measles is one of the most contagious infections in humans. Nevertheless, they are still often dismissed as a harmless childhood illness. Last year alone, almost 1,000 people in Germany were infected with measles. More than half of the cases of illness were recorded in a single federal state.

Most of the sick were not vaccinated at all

In the past few months, health experts have reported an increasing number of measles cases in Germany. The infectious disease has been on the decline since the measles vaccination was introduced around 40 years ago, but the measles eradication has been slowed down again and again. It is to blame that too few people are vaccinated in this country. This is now supported by new figures from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). As the experts report in the current Epidemiological Bulletin (33/2018), a large part of the people suffering from measles in the past year were unvaccinated.

Almost 400 measles cases in the first half of the year

"In 2017, 929 cases of measles, including one death, were reported to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI)," says the institute's website.

According to the information, 41 percent of the patients (376 people) had to be treated in a hospital.

By the end of June 2018 there were 387 cases of the highly contagious disease in Germany.

Most cases of illness occurred in NRW

Relatively few illnesses had been reported in some regions, and even more so in others.

"Measles rarely appear in some federal states, such as in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Saarland or Saxony-Anhalt," writes the RKI.

Other federal states such as Berlin, Bavaria or North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) are therefore more often affected.

According to the information, the largest number of cases was transmitted from NRW with 520 measles cases (56 percent of all cases recorded nationwide).

One city stood out in particular: "The largest outbreak with a total of 465 measles cases according to the definition of reference started in Duisburg in January 2017 (with a total of 332 cases) and later spread to other urban and rural districts in North Rhine-Westphalia," said the RKI.

High population density increases the risk of illness

The experts also explain why measles cases are increasing in large cities.

On the one hand, people in Germany generally live closer together than in most other European countries, and on the other hand measles cases imported by tourists, students and migrants in particular reached the metropolitan areas.

"This is also the highest chance of meeting people who have not yet been vaccinated for various reasons and who can get measles," writes the RKI.

As the experts report, information on the vaccination status was available for a large number of people who had been ill in the past year.

According to this, 82 percent of them were unvaccinated, 18 percent “had already received one or more measles vaccinations when the measles broke out.”

Infection can be fatal

Measles is highly contagious. The disease is transmitted via a droplet infection. It starts with flu-like symptoms such as high fever, cough and runny nose. The characteristic rash follows later.

In general, measles weakens the immune system. As a result, bronchitis, otitis media or pneumonia can occur. In rare cases, the infection can be fatal.

The disease is particularly dangerous in infants and young children.

No further decline can be observed

According to the RKI, the number of measles cases decreased from around 6,040 cases in 2001 to around 780 cases in 2003 after measles was introduced in 2001 due to increasing vaccination rates.

However, there has been no tendency for the number of measles cases submitted to the RKI to decrease further in recent years.

According to the experts, years with fewer measles cases have been replaced by years with sometimes extensive outbreaks and many measles cases.

Discussions about vaccination

In connection with the infectious disease, there is a lot of discussion about a possible measles vaccination in Germany. In Italy, such was introduced by law last year.

A majority of Germans would welcome vaccination, but numerous experts are against it. They prefer education rather than vaccination.

In Germany measles vaccination is recommended for children from the eleventh month of life, for infants in a day care center from the ninth month.

Adults should also check their measles vaccination protection if necessary.

"A single vaccination against measles is generally recommended for all adults who were born after 1970 and who have not been vaccinated against measles at all or only once during childhood or whose vaccination status is unclear," wrote the RKI on its website.

"People who were born before 1970 are very likely to have had measles," said the experts. (ad)

Author and source information

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