Austria Reports 30 Confirmed Measles Cases

The Ministry of Health in Austria has confirmed that there have been 30 officially confirmed Measles Cases since the beginning of 2023. In response to this, the city of Vienna and Carinthia have announced a special vaccination campaign, offering free MMR vaccinations from Monday.

The majority of measles cases reported can be traced back to a cluster that originated in Styria, with 27 of the current 30 cases being from there, two from Vienna, and one from Carinthia.

Austria’s Health Minister, Johannes Rauch, has appealed to the population to be vaccinated against measles. Rauch stated, “With the free measles vaccination, you can protect yourself and your fellow human beings very easily and effectively from infection. Future outbreaks can only be avoided if we significantly increase the vaccination coverage.”

The City of Vienna has expanded its range of free combined protective vaccinations against MMR, with the number of available vaccination appointments significantly increased from February 28 to March 31, 2023. Vaccinations will be administered at a central vaccination center, and appointments can be booked online or through calling the health hotline.

Carinthia will also offer a special vaccination campaign against MMR, with vaccinations taking place in the Klagenfurt Health Office from Monday to Friday from 8.30 a.m. to 11.30 a.m. and on Thursday afternoons from 1.30 p.m. to 3 p.m.

In addition to the Styria cluster, one case in Vienna was travel-related and has already subsided. The second case is an elementary school child who was infected via the Styrian cluster. According to a spokesperson for City Councilor for Health Peter Hacker, “The child is now in good shape. The contact tracing worked, there was no further infection, and it is very unlikely that this source of infection will lead to further infections in Vienna.”

A 19-year-old woman in Carinthia is also affected, with a connection to the Graz cluster confirmed. The evaluation of another suspected case in Carinthia continues, but no new suspected cases have been reported in Carinthia as of now.

Measles is a notifiable disease that can have serious health consequences for those affected. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that a vaccination coverage of 95 percent with two vaccinations is necessary to eradicate measles in the long term, with Austria committing to this goal. The MMR vaccination schedule consists of two vaccinations at least four weeks apart, with the first vaccination recommended from the age of nine months. If the first vaccination is given before the first birthday, an interval of three months before the second vaccination is recommended.

The live vaccine MM-RvaxPro is used for vaccination, containing weakened measles, mumps, and rubella viruses. After the vaccine has been given, the immune system makes antibodies against the measles, mumps, and rubella viruses, protecting against infections caused by these viruses. However, the MMR vaccination is not possible during pregnancy.

Austria had major measles outbreaks in 2015 and 2019, with 309 and 151 cases, respectively. In 2021 and 2022, only one case of measles was registered. The measles vaccine is an essential public health tool, and increasing vaccination coverage will help to control the spread of the disease, protecting both individuals and communities.