Long-term transmission of measles virus in Central and continental Western Europe.
- Clinical and Applied Virology
The World Health Organization (WHO) has adopted an elimination goal for measles and rubella, which is supposed to be met in the WHO European Region (EUR) by 2015. For verification of elimination, it is required that the genotyping data of detected measles viruses provide evidence for the interruption of endemic transmission. In order to record and assess the extent of endemic measles virus (MV) circulation in a part of the EUR, we analyzed transmission chains of the epidemiologically most relevant MV variants identified in Central and continental Western Europe (CCWE) from 2006 to 2013. Based on MV sequence data deposited in the WHO global database for molecular surveillance of measles (MeaNS), the circulation period was calculated for each MV variant at the country-level and for the entire region of CCWE. The MV variants "D5-Okinawa," "D4-Hamburg," "D4-Manchester," and "D8-Frankfurt-Main" spread widely in CCWE; they caused large and long-lasting outbreaks with secondary spread that resulted in additional outbreaks. Nation-wide outbreaks (epidemics) with thousands of measles cases occurred in four countries (Switzerland, France, Bulgaria, and Romania) and were characterized by continuous detection of the same MV variant for more than 12 months suggesting endemic transmission. In the entire region of CCWE, the circulation period of the four predominant MV variants ranged from 18 to 44 months. The long-lasting MV transmission which affected predominantly unvaccinated individuals in different hard-to-reach groups and in the general population is not consistent with the measles elimination goal. Additional efforts are necessary to meet the elimination target in the EUR.