No measles reported in Malta as European disease centre warns of rise in several countries

Despite no reported instances of measles in Malta, the ECDC is anticipating an increase in the highly contagious disease

Measles is a highly contagious disease, with several EU countries reporting instances of it in 2024
Measles is a highly contagious disease, with several EU countries reporting instances of it in 2024

As measles cases are expected to surge across various European Union and European Economic Area (EU/EEA) nations, Malta has reported no instances of the highly contagious disease.

However, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has issued a warning, indicating an anticipated increase in measles cases in the region.

The ECDC's assessment, titled "Measles on the rise in the EU/EEA: Considerations for public health response," highlights several factors contributing to the expected surge. These factors include sub-optimal vaccination coverage in certain EU/EEA countries, the likelihood of measles importation from areas experiencing high circulation, and the upcoming seasonal peak of the virus.

Recent data from the ECDC shows the number of EU/EEA countries reporting measles cases rising in January and early February 2024. At least seven deaths have been reported across two countries as a result of the outbreak.

Andrea Ammon, Director of the ECDC, emphasised the urgency of maximising vaccination efforts to mitigate the spread of measles. "Nobody should die from measles," she stated.

Measles poses a threat to individuals across all age groups, with infants too young to be immunised and unvaccinated children under five particularly vulnerable to complications.

Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, urged people to verify their vaccination status, emphasising the critical role of vaccination in safeguarding public health.

Maintaining high vaccination coverage, ideally at 95% or higher, is crucial in halting measles transmission within communities, the ECDC states. Efforts must be intensified to identify and reach unvaccinated or partially vaccinated populations, with a focus on ensuring equity in access to immunization, especially for vulnerable groups, it said.

The ECDC stressed the importance of robust surveillance systems for early detection and response to local measles outbreaks. Additionally, enhancing laboratory diagnostic capacity is essential for tracking virus genotypes and identifying transmission chains.

Raising awareness among healthcare professionals and implementing tailored interventions to address low vaccine uptake are also key components of the public health response to measles outbreaks.

The ECDC reiterated its commitment to collaborating with EU/EEA countries and international partners to bolster vaccination coverage and protect public health against measles and other infectious diseases.