Health authorities are urging travelers to Europe to ensure they get vaccinated for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) after reports confirmed a spike in outbreaks of the disease in several European countries.
The WHO has reported more than 6,500 cases of measles in 33 countries across Europe, with France hit especially hard. Of the European countries with confirmed measles cases, France accounted for more than 4,900 from January through last month, compared with 5,090 cases for all of last year.
Increasing numbers of measles cases have also been reported in the UK, Germany, Norway, Romania, Russia, Switzerland and the Netherlands.
Health authorities said the rising number of measles infections could be the result of an increasing proportion of children who are not vaccinated against MMR.
Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Deputy Director Chou Chih-hao (周志浩) yesterday strongly urged those who plan to travel to Europe to receive MMR vaccination shots if they have not already done so.
“As of April 22, there have been 19 reported cases of confirmed measles from hospitals across the country, two of which were imported from abroad,” he said.
The two cases involved travelers returning from France and Switzerland, he said, adding that the traveler from Switzerland had also recently been to India and Hong Kong.
Chou said MMR vaccine coverage among Taiwanese was as high as 98 percent because of a successful vaccination program launched in the 1980s, but people born before that could be at risk when traveling to disease-prone areas.
He also urged foreign wives who have not been immunized to get MMR shots before they get pregnant to protect their babies from contracting congenital rubella syndrome, which has complications that include cataracts, deafness and abnormalities of the heart, lung, brain and liver.
The CDC said people who have contracted measles through close contact with measles patients would show symptoms including high fever, coughing, rashes and the appearance of spots on the face.
About 7 percent of children who have measles develop complications such as pneumonia, seizures and encephalitis.
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