East Finland Measles Outbreak Over

Summer outbreak caused by Italian visitor now over, according to district health authority.

Credit: Kuopio Hospital

A measles outbreak in east Finland can be considered over, according to medical authorities in Sosteri District of eastern Finland.

“Taking into account the time taken by known cases and the incubation times of measles, there is little chance that new cases of epidemics will develop” says infectious diseases specialist Sakari Vuorinen from Eastern Savo hospital district.

During the summer, five measles cases were reported. The outbreak was traced back to an Italian man who attended an international camp in the region in June. He later traveled to Helsinki by train, and took a ferry to Estonia as well.

All the cases of measles in east Finland were linked to the same international camp. But authorities believe four other measles cases in Pirkanmma region over the summer could be linked to the Italian’s travel.

Although Italian ‘patient zero’ said he had been vaccinated against measles, laboratory tests showed no measles antibodies in his bloodstream.

Measles has been making a comeback in Europe in recent years, especially in countries where vaccination rates have dropped below 95%. In 2017 so far, there have been more than 13,000 confirmed cases of measles in Europe – the majority in Romania and Italy.

Children in Finland are given their first MMR – measles, mumps and rubella – vaccination at one year old, and receive a second vaccination when they turn six.  MMR vaccines are available free of charge at health care centres throughout Finland.

Before Finland started its MMR vaccination programme in 1975, there were some 15,000 cases of measles every year in the Nordic nation. However, by 1986 not a single case was detected, and infectious outbreaks remain rare, with MMR diseases more likely to be caught when traveling overseas, or being infected by someone visiting Finland

But vaccination rates in Finland are not 100%. According to THL, the National Institute for Health and Welfare, if vaccination coverage in a certain area or among a certain group of people remains too low for several years, groups can become susceptible to measles.

This could potentially happen in daycare centres, schools and work places.

“In some areas in Finland, there is now a chance of a local epidemic”, THL’s Chief Physician Taneli Puumalainen predicted earlier this year.