Measles cause two deaths in Switzerland

Widespread vaccination against measles is key, argue Swiss public health officials Keystone / Sascha Steinbach

Switzerland has seen two deaths due to measles this year, the Federal Office of Public Health says, and the number of reported cases is on the rise. 

This content was published on May 3, 2019 - 11:41

The first death involved a 30-year old man who had not been immunised, and who was infected by relatives. He received the vaccination 67 hours after exposure, but it was too late: he came down with the infection and died at home, shortly after showing the first symptoms, the health office said on Thursday. The exact cause of death in being investigated.  

The second death was of a 70-year-old man who had a compromised immune system due to cancer. He died a few days after infection due to pneumonia caused by measles. It is not yet known how he got the disease. 

In light of the deaths, public health officials one again highlighted the importance of getting vaccinated against measles. They emphasised the vaccine’s effectiveness not only in protecting individuals, but in stopping the infection from spreading to those who can’t be vaccinated such as babies, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems. 
+ What’s behind vaccine skepticism in Switzerland 

Seven-fold increase 

The health office said that since the beginning of the year there have been 155 registered cases of measles in Switzerland. Detailed data for January to mid-April show 138 cases, a more than seven-fold increase compared to the same period in 2018 (19 cases). 

A sharp rise was already reported at the beginning of April.  

The health office said the situation was “fragile” and that measles could only be eliminated if 95% of children and adults born after 1963 were vaccinated with two doses of the jab. 

Larger outbreaks in the Swiss cantons of Neuchâtel and Bern have shown that extra measures to stop the disease from spreading are needed, the office continued. This included identifying contact persons and stopping children who are not immunised from attending daycare and schools. Passengers who have been travelling in the same plane as someone with measles must also be informed of this, and about measures to take. 

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