Page last updated at 00:27 GMT, Friday, 18 April 2008 01:27 UK

Euro 2008 fans at risk of measles

MMR vaccine
MMR vaccine protects against measles, mumps and rubella

Football supporters travelling to Euro 2008 may be at risk of catching measles, health officials have warned.

Significant outbreaks are occurring in Switzerland and Austria, the two countries hosting the competition this summer, Europe-wide figures show.

A team of vaccine experts is currently conducting a risk assessment in Austria just eight weeks before the tournament.

The experts warned people to make sure they are vaccinated against the highly contagious disease.

Figures from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) show more than 1,300 measles cases were reported across Europe in the first quarter of 2008, compared to less than 800 in the same period last year.

Significant outbreaks have occurred recently in several European countries, so the risk to the millions of unvaccinated Europeans is real
Zsuzsanna Jakab

In 2007, Switzerland, UK, Romania and Ireland were the countries with the highest number of measles cases per 100,000 population.

"Significant" outbreaks are currently occurring in Austria and Switzerland.

Hundreds of thousands of people, some of whom may be unvaccinated against measles, are expected to travel to Austria and Switzerland for the championship, European officials warned.

ECDC director Zsuzsanna Jakab said: "Measles is one of the most contagious viruses in existence, causing serious illness and even death.

"If unvaccinated people are exposed to it they have a high chance of being infected.

"Significant outbreaks have occurred recently in several European countries, so the risk to the millions of unvaccinated Europeans is real."

Routine childhood vaccination against measles was introduced in most European countries in the 1980s.

But there are many children and young adults who have not had the opportunity or have refused to be vaccinated meaning a target to eliminate measles from Europe by 2010 is unlikely to be met.

In the UK MMR immunisation rates dipped following research - since discredited - which raised the possibility that the vaccine may be linked to an increased risk of autism.

Professor Steve Field, chair of the Royal College of GPs said the general advice would be to get your child vaccinated.

"Children are probably even more at risk in the UK than many other countries in Europe so it's not just an issue for Euro 2008.

"Measles can be very serious and even fatal."




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30 Aug 07 |  Health

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