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Measles risk at Euro 2008

21st April 2008

Switzerland and Austria, two of the countries hosting this year's Euro 2008 football competition, have both seen significant outbreaks of measles this year, which the means the disease could pose a risk to hundreds of thousands of football supporters travelling to watch the competition this summer.

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Health officials say anyone travelling to the affected countries may be at risk of catching measles, citing a boost in Europe-wide infection figures for the disease.

Just eight weeks ahead of the tournament, a team of vaccine experts is conducting a risk assessment in Austria.

Experts are warning people to make sure they are vaccinated against the highly contagious disease, which is sometimes fatal.

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, according to statistics from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

Millions of Europeans remain unvaccinated against measles, leaving them vulnerable amid the recent outbreaks.

Last year, Switzerland, UK, Romania and Ireland reported the highest number of measles cases per 100,000 population.

The virus was now seeing a resurgence in both Switzerland and Austria, ECDC said.

Director Zsuzsanna Jakab warned that measles is one of the most contagious viruses in existence, and the unvaccinated had a high risk of contracting the disease on exposure.

Most European countries began routine measles vaccination of children during the 1980s. But many children and young adults remain unvaccinated.

Officials say a target to eliminate measles from Europe by 2010 is unlikely to be met.

Research which has since been discredited in the United Kingdom was responsible for a sharp fall in immunisation rates using the combination measles-mumps-rubella, or MMR, vaccination, amid fears the jab could be linked to childhood autism.

Experts also warn that measles is not just an issue for Euro 2008.


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