As Europe reels from a measles outbreak which saw 21,315 cases and 35 deaths being reported over the continent just last year, Malta is thankfully in the clear.
The online medical community shared their dismay at the latest World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics on measles outbreaks in Europe following earlier reports this week. The European Office for the WHO has reported 21,315 cases throughout 2017, a four-fold increase over 2016, with the highest prevalence in Romania and Italy. 35 deaths were additionally reported, a fact that WHO Regional Director for Europe Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab described as “a tragedy we simply cannot accept.”
Dr. Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe
The surge in cases, which the WHO is attributing to factors such as declining vaccination rates and interruptions in vaccine supply, did not affect Malta, which has been declared free of measles since 2016. According to the latest WHO report, Malta is one of 7 European states confirming no cases between January and December last year; the other states being Andorra, Azerbaijan, Latvia, the Republic of Moldova, San Marino, and Uzbekistan.
WHO Europe EpiData for 2017 (dated Feb. 2018)
Lovin Malta reached out to the Office of the Superintendence for Public Health for a comment, which confirmed that it had received no notifications of the disease in 2016 and 2017. The Office also touched upon the high vaccination coverage for measles in Malta, given that it is a vaccine-preventable disease, with 92% of infants receiving their first MMR vaccine at 3 months, and 85% receiving their second dose 3-4 years later.
Despite Malta’s promising results, the Office noted there is ongoing emphasis on the importance of vaccination to ensure high vaccine coverage rates. The MMR vaccine covers measles, mumps and rubella, and forms part of Malta’s immunisation scheme, being offered for free to children born in Malta.