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First Measles Case in Iceland in Five Years

An adult traveller visiting Iceland was diagnosed with measles on February 2, Iceland’s first case of the highly infection illness in five years. The man is in isolation at the National Hospital and all those at risk of exposure to the illness have been contacted by authorities.

A serious illness

Measles are a highly infectious, serious illness, characterised by red flecks that spread across the skin. The death rate of measles infection is 1-3 per 1,000 cases. Once infected, it usually takes 10-12 days for symptoms to appear.

While those who have been vaccinated against measles are very unlikely to get infected, participation in measles vaccination in Iceland has been falling in recent years. According to the newest review by the Directorate of Health, participation has dropped from around 93-95% down to around 90%, which is too low to maintain herd immunity.

“We would really like to see higher [participation] in order to better prevent the spread of infection through society, but participation needs to be quite good to ensure that,” Chief Epidemiologist Guðrún Aspelund told RÚV. She added that measles infections are on the rise in Europe, which increases the likelihood of an outbreak in Iceland.

Eradicated in the 90s in Iceland

Measles were eradicated in Iceland in the 1990s, and were not diagnosed again until 2014. Since that date, all measles cases diagnosed in Iceland have originated abroad. “It’s not circulating here in Iceland and we want to prevent it from spreading and leading to group outbreaks or more cases here,” Guðrún stated.

Children in Iceland typically receive two measles vaccinations, which Guðrún says provide protection for life.

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