Measles wave in Austria: Almost 60 cases have already been confirmed

Measles wave in Austria: Almost 60 cases have already been confirmed
With appropriately high vaccination rates, the measles virus could be eradicated. (symbolic photo)
Image: APA

Austria is well on the way to becoming the leader in Europe again, the Ö1-Morgenjournal reported on Monday: Last year there were only as many measles cases in Romania as in this country.

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According to AGES (Health and Food Security Agency), 186 cases were reported in 2023. This year, as of February 9th, there are already 55 confirmed cases in the epidemiological reporting system (EMS), 7 of them in Upper Austria. A further increase is to be expected, according to AGES.

Vaccination rate too low

With appropriately high vaccination rates, the measles virus could be eradicated. But for this to happen, 95 percent of the population would have to be immune. According to the Ö1-Morgenjournal, only 80 to 90 percent of small children are currently affected, and of those under ten, around 30,000 do not have sufficient vaccination protection.

Complications such as bronchitis, middle ear infections and pneumonia occur in 20 out of 100 cases, warns the AGES. About one in 1,000 sufferers develop life-threatening encephalitis. 98 out of 100 people who come into contact with the virus and are not immune become infected.

Many children are vaccinated too late

The measles vaccination is a combination vaccination against measles-mumps-rubella (MMR). Two vaccinations are recommended from the age of 9 months. “Currently, many children in Austria are being vaccinated too late,” says AGES, and more and more are not being vaccinated at all. “The vaccination is a safe vaccination and if you look at the numbers, everything speaks in favor of vaccination because the risk of wild virus infection is so high here,” emphasized virologist Lukas Weseslindtner, head of the national reference laboratory for measles, mumps and rubella from MedUni Vienna, in an ORF interview.

  • Also read: WHO warns of measles: case numbers are exploding

“Every case is one too many”

Weseslindtner spoke in the morning journal of a very dangerous virus that “damages us from head to toe” – from the brain to the respiratory organs to the immune system. Therefore, “every case is one too many,” and current analyzes show “that these viruses that we are detecting are already genetically different. That means it is not an event, not a wedding or a football game, but rather it is “There are several hotspots of different viruses, and since this virus is very, very contagious, it can now spread rapidly unless enough people are immune.”

Regarding the chances of containing the spread, the expert said: “Now public health officers have to very quickly question people who are sick, which people have come into contact with these sick people, and if they are not immune, you only have one very short window of time to vaccinate these people.”

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