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HEALTH

Measles threatens a comeback across Europe

Just a few days after it was reported that nearly 50 measles cases have been confirmed in Austria, the World Health Organization calls it "unacceptable" that the childhood disease is currently making a comeback in Europe.

Measles threatens a comeback across Europe
File photo: Shutterstock
The World Health Organization called on European nations Wednesday to step up vaccinations against the highly contagious measles virus after an outbreak of over 22,000 cases across the continent since 2014.
 
"We must collectively respond, without further delay, to close immunization gaps," said Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO's European director.
 
"It is unacceptable that, after the last 50 years' efforts to make safe and effective vaccines available, measles continues to cost lives, money and time."
 
According to the UN health agency, 22,149 cases of measles have been reported in seven countries across the region since the start of 2014, with Kyrgyzstan, Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as Russia hit hardest.
 
However, the outbreak has also struck Georgia, Kazakhstan, Italy and Germany, where an 18-month-old boy died February 18th after coming down with the illness.
 
So far this year, there have been 47 cases of measles reported in Austria.
 
Despite a 95 percent immunization rate of babies in Austria, cases of preventable diseases have been growing.  In 2013, there were 74 measles cases.  In 2014, that number increased to 114, a figure which is concerning medical professionals.
 
"That's a lot," says virologist Heidemarie Holzmann of the Medical University of Vienna.
 
Measles is often underestimated, says the expert. "Every fifth case experiences complications", she said.
 
In the worst case it can turn into encephalitis, a potentially fatal inflammation of the brain.
 
Statistics show that only two in every 1,000 patients die from a measles infection.

But the number of cases has rocketed recently in Berlin, with 447 already reported so far this year in the German capital.

Like in Austria, the resurgence of the preventable disease in other European countries and parts of the United States coincides with a movement among some parents to refuse to vaccinate their children.
 
Measles causes fever and rash and in severe cases can lead to pneumonia or brain swelling, which is sometimes fatal. The disease is highly contagious because it is transmitted through the air.
 
Even if the number of measles cases dropped by 50 percent from 2013-2014, the current epidemic has put into serious doubt the objective of eradicating the disease in Europe by the end of the year.
 
"The priority is now to control current outbreaks in all affected countries through immunization," Nedret Emiroglu, a deputy director in WHO's Europe office.
 
Many people who do not vaccinate their children say they fear a triple vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) is responsible for increasing cases of autism — a theory repeatedly disproven by various studies.
 
The controversy dates back to the publication of a now debunked article in the Lancet medical journal in 1998, by disgraced physician Andrew Wakefield.

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HEALTH

How do I get a European Health Insurance Card in Austria?

An European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) provides EU residents with access to public healthcare across the bloc. Here’s what you need to know about getting an EHIC in Austria.

How do I get a European Health Insurance Card in Austria?

A big advantage of living in Europe is the ability to travel to so many different countries.

But sometimes accidents or illness can happen while on holiday or a work trip, which can mean an unplanned visit to a doctor.

READ ALSO: Austria recommends 4th Covid vaccine dose for everyone over 12

Thankfully, the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) provides some protection against expensive medical bills in the form of reciprocal healthcare. 

Here’s what you need to know about the EHIC and how to get the card in Austria.

What is an EHIC?

An EHIC is a form of medical insurance cover and replaces the international health insurance voucher (form E111). It is issued free of charge and allows holders to access state-provided medical care while temporarily in another EU country. 

It works on a reciprocal basis through a country’s social security system and care is provided at the same cost as those insured in the country (which means it can be free, in some cases).

This means that if you have an e-card and are insured with one of the public health insurances in Austria, such as ÖGK, for example, you are entitled to the EHIC and to access public health services (to a certain extent) in other countries.

FOR MEMBERS: What is Austria’s e-card and what do you need to know about it?

The EHIC is valid in all 27 EU countries, as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland, Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the UK.

However, the EHIC is not an alternative to comprehensive travel insurance as it doesn’t cover any private healthcare costs, a flight home or lost/stolen property.

Why do I need an EHIC in Austria?

The main advantage of having an EHIC is if you need medical treatment while briefly travelling in another country.

While the coverage is limited to state-provided healthcare, it does mean you will be treated by a doctor and not liable to pay non-resident medical fees.

READ NEXT: How Austria is making it easier for non-EU workers to get residence permits

Austria’s e-card – the national insurance card – is needed for almost all medical procedures. On the back, it contains the EHIC Ecard image: Wikicommons

How do I get an EHIC?

EHICs are issued by the national health country provider of the country where you live. This could be, for example, the ÖGK or SVA, depending on which provider you use in Austria.

In Austria, every e-card (the health insurance card that is used to visit a doctor) already contains an EHIC on the reverse of the card, so there is no need to apply for it separately. 

However, if the data fields on the EHIC on the back of your e-card contains stars (***) instead of personal information such as name and date of birth, further documentation is required to access healthcare in another EU country.

In this case, you need to contact your social security provider in Austria to receive a replacement card before you travel.

The EHIC is only valid on the condition that you are insured or co-insured in Austria.

Useful words 

Social insurance – Sozialversicherung

Travel insurance – Reiseversicherung

Healthcare – Gesundheitspflege

Useful links

European Commission

Austrian social insurance

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