Epidemic of measles in the US has consequences across Europe

Image copyright EPA Image caption Measles cases in the United States have almost doubled from 207 in 2017 to 395 in 2018

The number of measles cases in the United States has risen steeply.

It now stands at over 450, mainly from two outbreaks in California.

But despite this case data – supplied by US health authorities – officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn of much larger future increases.

This is largely because a rise in measles cases in Europe is creating a window of opportunity for people to get infected.

So what are the chances of catching measles in Europe? Is the risk of having it increased by the outbreak, and then travelling abroad?

The CDC already explains that while two out of every 100 travellers from Europe to the US will get measles – there is a one in 50 chance you can get it within that two-year window, even if you travel every three years.

Now add on top of that an increase in measles cases in Europe – where the three-year window starts – and you have four out of every 100 travellers from Europe to the US.

This may sound high, but it is actually lower than how the CDC has been interpreting the numbers for years.

For instance, they used to suggest that 2.5 out of every 100 people in the European countries of the European region will get the illness in the three-year period. That was based on the fact that it was estimated that one out of every 20 Europeans travelling from these countries in the US would get infected – but has now been revised.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The CDC estimates that one out of every 20 travellers to the US will get measles

The reason: The percentage of people with the disease following infection in the first year is unchanged, but there are certain characteristics about the disease that are harder to define.

A woman is more likely to get infected with measles – and more likely to transmit it to others – during the first year of infection.

So while 2.5 out of every 100 people in the European region of the European Health Communities get the disease, the CDC now estimates that about 2.4 people will get it for every 100 people with the disease in the first year.

Moreover, this includes countries with high rates of measles protection already, so it includes countries where vaccination coverage is incredibly high. The high vaccination rates in almost all of the countries include only those where measles has been eradicated – so those in place of what is still a large measles endemic in the western parts of Europe.

Despite this trend in lower numbers, the CDC’s estimates that there will still be 1,230 additional measles cases in the US in 2020.

That is because almost half of the cases have already been identified, with the possibility of the additional number of cases resulting in unvaccinated people being exposed to the disease while travelling.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The virus can cause diarrhoea, a sore throat and a high fever

Without vaccination, measles can develop into a fever that is ten to 15 times higher than average, along with red, runny nose, a small white spot called a pyelonephritis and a rash. People usually recover with an antibiotic, although in rare cases measles can be deadly.

The Europe measles outbreak first broke out in France and has been quickly spreading through Europe.

More than 1,300 cases have been recorded in 20 countries with cases in the UK, Belgium, Germany, Sweden, Hungary, Poland, Russia, Croatia, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Spain, Greece, Lithuania, Latvia, Turkey, Israel, China, Moldova, Colombia, France, Italy, Taiwan, France, Spain, South Korea, China, Iraq, Serbia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Israel, and Bulgaria

What to do to protect yourself?

There is no vaccine against measles. Prevention is primarily about the following:

Immunisation as a parent .

. Don’t risk getting measles by spreading the disease to other people in your community

Avoid potential clusters of infected people .

. Protect your child with a measles MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine .

. Vaccinate their friends .

. Limit their contact with unvaccinated people .

. Avoid contact with people who have not been vaccinated .

. Wash your hands often and thoroughly .

. Immunize your pets .

. Wash your hands if you have measles .

. Observe MMR vaccination reminders .

. Visit your doctor before you travel to prevent catching the disease.

Unfortunately, measles can only be prevented by following simple precautions for yourself, and preventing it from spreading to others.

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