Measles on the rise in Belgium and across Europe

Measles on the rise in Belgium and across Europe
Measles is on the rise in Belgium, with over double the number of cases in the first nine months of 2019 compared with the whole of 2018. Credit: U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Matthew Lotz)/Mountain Home Airforce Base.

Measles continues to be on the rise in Belgium and across the rest of Europe.

In the first nine months of 2019, 397 cases of measles were recorded in Belgium, compared with 117 cases in the whole of 2018, Dr. Monalisa Zampieri of the Saint-Pierre Hospital told L'Echo.

"Belgium is therefore far from achieving the World Health Organisation (WHO) target for the elimination of measles; less than one case per million inhabitants," Zampieri explained.

Belgium's figures mean that it is also at risk of losing its status of "country in transition" towards the elimination of measles, meaning that a country has gone more than 12 months without continuous transmission of the disease, conferred to it by the WHO in 2018.

Two factors explaining the rise of measles are the high contagiousness of the disease and the low vaccination rate of the Belgian population.

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In Belgium, Flanders has a measles vaccination rate of 93.4%, Brussels has a rate of 76.4% and Wallonia has a rate of only 70.1%.

"Ideally, 95% of the population would be vaccinated," explained Dr. Nicolas Dauby from the Institute for Medical Immunology and Public Health School of the ULB.

"With such a rate we can limit the transmission of the disease. This is called group immunity," Dauby added.

Europe faces a similar problem, with a "dramatic insurgence of measles" in the first half of 2019, the WHO wrote in a report.

The number of cases in the European region has doubled in comparison to 2018, with 90,000 people infected in the first half of 2019 compared to 44,175 in the first six months of 2018, the statement explained.

Evie McCullough

The Brussels Times

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