Spike in measles cases in Germany prompts call to check on vaccinations
May 26, 2006
American military parents in Europe are being urged to make sure their children’s measles vaccinations are up to date after a recent spike in the number of German children who have contracted the disease.
More than 1,000 cases have been reported in the Nordrhein-Westfalen state, just north of the Rheinland-Pfalz state that includes the American communities in Kaiserslautern and Wiesbaden, according to a statement released Thursday by the Europe Regional Medical Command.
No American cases have been reported in the U.S. beneficiary population, Dr. (Lt. Col.) William Corr, a preventative medicine consultant for ERMC, said in the release.
“This is likely due to the fact that there are no large concentrations of U.S. beneficiaries in the Nordrhein-Westfalen area, and the extensive number of beneficiaries who have been vaccinated against measles,” he said.
According to the release, childhood immunizations are not administered as universally in Germany as they are in the U.S.
A report on the not-for-profit Web site www.eurosurveillance.org states that of the German patients who have come down with measles in this latest outbreak, less than 2.5 percent had been immunized.
Children are recommended to get two doses of measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control — one when they’re from 12 to 15 months old, and another at 4 to 6 years old, or at least 28 days after the first dose.
Women of childbearing age should be sure they’ve either had measles or have been vaccinated against it, the Web site states. Coming down with the disease while pregnant can cause miscarriages or birth defects.
Reminding the American military community to be up to date on their vaccinations is a safety precaution, ERMC spokeswoman Jeri Chapelle said.
“A lot of us live in the German community, so we could be exposed,” she said.
Measles symptoms begin to manifest about 10 to 12 days after exposure to the virus, according to the ERMC release. The infected person first experiences a fever lasting two to four days. This is followed by the onset of a cough, runny nose and possibly pink eye. A rash appears about two weeks after exposure and begins at the hairline before moving to the face and neck. It can be fatal in some cases and can lead to retardation, convulsions and deafness.
“Measles is a highly contagious disease, but is prevented through vaccination and other countermeasures,” Corr said in the ERMC release. “All military health care beneficiaries should take this as a reminder to keep their shots up to date.”