Malta unscathed by measles surge in Europe

In its latest disease surveillance report the World Health Organisation recorded a 400% increase in measles cases across Europe in 2017 • Malta has been measles-free since 2015

Malta's strong vaccination programme has helped eradicate measles and rubella from the island
Malta's strong vaccination programme has helped eradicate measles and rubella from the island

Malta remained measles-free despite a Europe-wide surge of the disease last year, according to a surveillance report by the World Health Organisation.

Measles cases across Europe increased by 400% in 2017 with more than 20,000 people affected and 35 deaths.

Cases were highest in Romania, Italy and Ukraine, with 15 countries, including the UK, experiencing large outbreaks.

Malta was declared measles and rubella-free in the 2016 report (covering 2015) and has maintained that situation due to its strong immunisation programme. The MMR vaccine is given for free and forms part of the basic immunisation programme offered to all children born in Malta.

In its latest disease surveillance report for 2017, WHO said declines in overall routine immunisation coverage and low coverage among some marginalised groups was the primary cause of the measles outbreak.

A study published in 2004 about a possible link between the MMR vaccine and autism has been discredited but the scare it created damaged some people's trust of the vaccine.

Measles is a highly infectious viral illness that can be deadly and the MMR vaccine can prevent it.

Neighbouring Italy has witnessed a big outbreak of measles, prompting the government last year to introduce a law that made it incumbent on kindergarten schools and child care centres to accept only children who are vaccinated. The law also imposed penalties on parents who did not vaccinate their children.

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