Concern over spike in measles cases in Switzerland
Swiss health authorities are taking extra steps to fight measles after a recent rise in the number of cases in the country.
Switzerland saw 55 new measles cases in March, according to new figures from the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH). In the same month last year, there were just five new cases, while in March 2017 the figure was 14.
The same pattern can be seen for the first three months of 2019. From January to March this year, there were 97 new cases, up from 15 last year and 56 a year earlier.
This spike has raised concern among Swiss health authorities.
Measles is highly contagious and can affect people of any age. Common complications include ear, eye and lung infections, while less common complications include liver disease and heart and nervous system problems.
In extremely rare cases (one in 25,000) it can lead to death.
According to the FOPH, measles can only be eliminated in Switzerland when 95 percent of children and the same percentage of adults born after 1963 have received two doses of a measles vaccine.
However, this is currently the case for just 87 percent of two-year olds and 93 percent of 16-year olds.
As a result – and in the face of a number of outbreaks this year – health authorities have introduced extra measures.
These measures include: the identification of people who may have come into contact with someone infected with measles; the exclusion from kindergarten or school of unvaccinated children who have come into contact with an infected person, and the vaccination of people who have come into contact with someone infected with measles.
Anyone with measles should visit a doctor and avoid contact with babies and pregnant women.
In addition, people who have not been vaccinated against measles, or who have only had a single dose, should ensure they have been vaccinated fully.
In Switzerland, two doses of the measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) vaccination are recommended for children: the first at nine months and the second at 12 months.
A catch-up vaccination for people who have not previously been vaccinated is possible at any age.