The Federal Office of Public Health recorded 214 cases of measlesexternal link in Switzerland in the first nine months of 2019 – six times more than for the whole of 2018. Two people have died. Officially, however, the disease has been eliminated in Switzerland.
Incidence has thus increased from four cases per million inhabitants to 25 per million, according to a report published on Monday. The cases occurred in 13 cantons, with 83 in canton Bern alone.
The health office said 20% of those affected were under the age of ten, 23% were between ten and 19 and 57% were older than 20.
The majority of cases (84%) could be attributed to a specific outbreak. In 16% of cases, the origin was not found.
The health office said 91% of the 172 patients with known vaccination status were not vaccinated or were insufficiently vaccinated; 9% were completely vaccinated.
Most cases belonged to 30 outbreaks between January and May, with the biggest outbreaks seen in cantons Geneva, St Gallen, Zurich, Bern and Neuchâtel.
Measles has caused two deaths so far this year. The first case was of a 30-year-old unvaccinated man who had been infected by relatives. He died soon after the symptoms appeared at home.
The second case involved a 70-year-old man whose immune system was suppressed owing to cancer. He died a few days after the onset of measles-induced pneumonia.
In addition, 45 measles patients have had to be hospitalised since the beginning of the year.
At the end of July, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared endemic measles eliminated in Switzerland for the first time.
According to the WHO, measles is considered eliminated when no measles transmission chains lasting longer than 12 months occur three times in a row. Switzerland continues to meet these criteria despite the outbreaks in early 2019, said the Federal Office of Public Health.
The office emphasises that vaccination is the safest method of protecting oneself and one’s children from the risks of measles.