A measles epidemic continues to spread across Switzerland and now threatens to compromise the fight against the highly contagious disease in other European countries.
Officials from the Federal Health Office said on Monday that Switzerland has been slow in vaccinating people against the illness, which has affected nearly 500 people here so far this year.
While North American countries and Australia have all but eliminated the viral disease, Switzerland has reported 3,500 cases of measles in the past two years. That represents 30 per cent of all cases reported in Europe, health officials said.
Canton Lucerne has been particularly affected with 116 cases so far in 2009, nearly one in four of all cases reported in Switzerland this year.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is working to eradicate the illness from Europe by 2010, but Switzerland's vaccination rate has been too low to hit that target, health officials said.
In an effort to change that, Switzerland will participate for the first time in a "vaccination week" awareness campaign coordinated by the WHO from April 20-26.
The campaign, with posters and brochures, is designed to promote the benefits of having youngsters vaccinated against the disease.
swissinfo with agencies