Signs of our times: festivals, measles and ongoing public health challenges
For many people, music festivals are an integral part of summer: friends, music, fun. What could go wrong apart from a bit of mud (which some people claim is part of the charm anyway)? Actually, a few things can go wrong but contacting measles is not the first thing that comes to mind, is it? I was surprised to read that indeed there was a government warning in the UK due to a measles outbreak spreading in music festivals. People were urged to get vaccinated and not attend festivals if they have symptoms.
As much as we want to think of measles and similar diseases as things of the past, there have been more than a few outbreaks in recent years in developed countries, including one in Berlin, Germany in 2014-2015 and another one in Disneyland, California in the United States . There goes the 2010 WHO commitment to the elimination of measles by 2015…
A systematic review we just published, looked at the epidemiology and economic burden of measles, mumps, pertussis and varicella in Germany. The authors included 36 published studies, as well as surveillance data. Here are the main findings of this review:
- Despite the existing recommendations for immunisation, there is still considerable morbidity due to childhood diseases in Germany
- Adults are also affected by these diseases
- There were regional differences in incidence of some of the diseases,
The authors call for improved vaccination and communication strategies, targeting all age and risk groups. Which, of course, makes sense and it is highly needed. But I cannot help wondering: will we ever achieve this? Call me a pessimist but it was back in the beginning of 2011 that I wrote this blog post about the now retracted study that linked MMR vaccination to autism. I was wondering then whether this would mean that the anti-vaccination movement will lose its popularity but it seems this is not the case, especially for certain places/communities. So here I am, five and a half years after that 2011 blogpost, almost 6 years after the infamous study has been retracted asking myself the same question: what can public health professionals do?
In the meantime, the “things to pack” before leaving for a music festival needs some adaptation…
* If you want more data on immunisation and surveillance, have a look at these intereactive maps: immunisation survellance from WHO and european surveillance of measles cases from ECDC.