Two hospitals in Wallonia have reported at least 30 cases of measles infections since the start of the year, raising concerns of a possible outbreak in the region.
The Jolimont and Tivoli hospitals, located in the city of La Louvière, have together treated between 30 and 35 patients infected with measles, raising concerns over a spike in the number of people infected in the past three weeks.
By contrast, both hospitals told regional daily La Gazette that they usually treated one to two measles cases per year.
While some of the patients treated included infants less than a year old —who cannot be vaccinated that young—Sandrine Milas, an infectious disease specialist in Tivoli’s hospital said that many of the patients were adults who had not been vaccinated properly —or at all.
“Between 1970 and 1985 the disease started spreading less — so a big part of the public was not vaccinated, or only received one dose of the vaccine,” Milas told regional broadcaster ACTV, adding that some people “thought they had received the vaccine.”
The reports come after the World Health Organisation said that, in the first two months of 2019, 34,400 cases of measles had been reported in 42 European countries, with the majority of cases located in Ukraine, Albania and Romania.
While medical staff in both hospitals said that none of the patients had so far needed to be admitted, they raised concern over a possible outbreak over summer holiday travels.
Measles is a highly infectious disease and can be deadly in some cases if left untreated.
According to François Kid of Jolimont hospital, initial symptoms can take up to three weeks to appear and can include a sore throat and irritated eyes, followed by a rash which spreads progressively throughout the body.
A person who has contracted the infection can spread it before any symptoms appear, and someone who has been in contact with an infected person can still be vaccinated within three days.