A measles outbreak in Austria has raised concerns about declining vaccination rates and prompted health authorities to urge people to check their immunization status and close any gaps. As of Wednesday, there were 24 confirmed cases in three states, with the largest cluster in the region of Styria, where 22 children have been infected. The remaining cases are in the states of Carinthia and Vienna, and one of them is linked to the Styrian outbreak. The health ministry warned that the situation illustrates “how important it is to use the free vaccination program” for measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR).
The measles outbreak in Austria also highlights the country’s commitment to the goal of eradicating measles, as part of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) global plan. To achieve the necessary level of community protection, vaccination rates of 95% with two doses of MMR are required. Austria has seen a slight decline in vaccination rates in recent years, especially among young children. According to the office of Health Minister Johannes Rauch, who is a member of the Green Party, it is now “more important than ever” to check one’s vaccination status or that of one’s children and fill any gaps as soon as possible.
The MMR vaccine, which is a live attenuated vaccine that combines three components, has been shown to be effective and well-tolerated. It is available free of charge at public vaccination centers, certain other healthcare facilities, and most pediatricians’ offices. The vaccine is generally recommended for everyone over 9 months of age without age restrictions. Missing vaccinations can and should be caught up at any age. The two-dose immunization provides highly durable protection against disease, severe courses, and complications.
Last year, only one case of measles was reported to the health ministry by the responsible health authorities. This year, there have been 25 confirmed cases, including the 24 current ones, and one resolved case in the capital city of Vienna, which was unrelated to the Styrian outbreak. The health ministry is in close communication with the federal states and has coordinated measures to contain the outbreaks, including isolation and quarantine of affected individuals, contact tracing, and vaccination campaigns.
In Styria, four of the infected children require treatment at the University Children’s Hospital in Graz. At the beginning of the week, six children were hospitalized, but the number has since been reduced. In Leoben, another Styrian town, one child was briefly hospitalized but could be discharged soon. The state health department is also investigating some suspected cases that are yet to be confirmed.
In Carinthia, three suspected cases are being tested, and the results are expected on Thursday. Two of them are related to a confirmed case of a 19-year-old woman who is in quarantine at a hospital but has a normal course of the disease. The confirmed case in Vienna involves a child and is linked to the Styrian cluster, according to the office of Health Councilor Peter Hacker, who is a member of the Social Democratic Party (SPÖ). Another case of measles was reported in Vienna at the beginning of the year, but it had a travel background and did not lead to any further infections.
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease that spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It can cause fever, cough, runny nose, red eyes, and a rash that spreads all over the body. In some cases, it can lead to serious complications such as pneumonia, encephalitis, and death.
Children under 5 years of age, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems are particularly vulnerable. The disease can be prevented by vaccination, which is safe and effective. The Austrian outbreak comes amid a global resurgence of measles, which has been fueled by vaccine