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Measles in Austria: Health Ministry calls for urgent vaccinations

Amanda Previdelli
Amanda Previdelli - [email protected]
Measles in Austria: Health Ministry calls for urgent vaccinations
Measles vaccines are not obligatory but recommended. Photo by CDC on Unsplash

As cases of the measles disease rise in Austria, the Health Minister has once again called on people to 'catch up on missed vaccinations'.


Austria's Health Minister Johannes Rauch has blamed 'vaccination scepticism' for the rising cases of measles in the country.

Rauch wrote on X (formerly Twitter): "Vaccinations have almost eradicated many deadly diseases. Due to increasing vaccination scepticism, measles, for example, is rising again. We would like to raise awareness with an information campaign: Free vaccination protects you and your children from #measles and serious health consequences!"

The minister added that measles is a reportable disease in Austria as it is one of the most contagious infectious diseases. "It can lead to serious complications in all unprotected people," he said. Rauch stated that a vaccination coverage rate of 95 percent is needed to eradicate the disease.

"For long-lasting protection against measles, two vaccinations are recommended from (age) nine months. Missing vaccinations can and should be caught up on at any age. Detailed information material is available from doctors, public institutions and online", the minister said.


He ended with an appeal: "Have your vaccination status and that of your children checked and, if necessary, get your vaccination now for the sake of your health. It's not for nothing that vaccinations are one of the greatest achievements in medicine."

What is the situation with measles in Austria right now?

Measles is a highly contagious "droplet" infection, meaning that virus particles are excreted as droplets when sick people cough or sneeze. In the case of the measles virus, they can circulate in the air for several hours. 

The virus can also be transmitted through direct contact with nasal or throat secretions or contaminated surfaces - where it can survive up to two hours.

Cases in Austria have been on the rise this year. In 2023, there were 186 cases reported in the country. Since January 1st, Austria's epidemiological reporting system has reported 129 confirmed measles cases and "further cases are expected", according to the authorities.

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Why are there measles outbreaks in Austria?

Some parents refuse to have their children vaccinated, with one common misconeption being that the measles vaccination can trigger autism, reported Kurier. "Numerous scientific studies have shown that there is no link between the MMR vaccination and autistic disorders," according to the German Robert Koch Institute

Vaccination critics support this misconception with an article by Andrew Wakefield, which appeared in 1998 and in which a possible link was established.

"In the study on which this article is based, several methodological errors and even manipulations were uncovered," the Robert Koch Institute emphasised. "For example, only 12 children were examined in total, and their selection was not random. Furthermore, data on the interval between the vaccination and the appearance of signs of autism were falsified."

Wakefield had a conflict of interest, as he was commissioned and paid by a lawyer representing parents of autistic children to conduct the study. As a result, the article was wholly revoked in 2010, and Andrew Wakefield was stripped of his medical license in the UK," according to the RKI website.

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Numerous studies carried out subsequently were unable to find a link between the MMR vaccination and autistic disorders. There was no significant difference in the incidence of autism between vaccinated and unvaccinated children. The American Autism Science Foundation also expressly points out that there is no causal link between the MMR vaccination and autism.


What are the symptoms of the disease?

Typical initial symptoms are fever, cough, runny nose, inflammation of the conjunctiva (eyelids) and bronchioles, the smallest branches of the respiratory tract. In addition, there are typically "Koplik's spots" - bright red spots with white or bluish-white centres found inside the mouth, which appear one or two days before the typical measles rash.

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The rash usually appears three to four days after the onset of symptoms, starting on the head and spreading over the whole body. It is described as a maculopapular exanthema, a blotchy, nodular rash, usually with individual and converging, reddish patches. Itching often occurs. Diarrhea may also occur. The exanthema usually subsides after 4-5 days.

There is no specific antiviral therapy for the treatment of measles infection. Supportive therapy with sufficient fluids and anti-fever medication can alleviate the symptoms. Antibiotics are used in the case of a bacterial superinfection.

The best prevention, though, is vaccination. In Austria, a live vaccine is available in combination with components against mumps and rubella. A total of two vaccine doses are generally recommended from the age of nine months. 


The jab is part of the vaccination programme by the federal government, the federal states and the social insurance institutions and is free of charge at public vaccination centres for all age groups. If necessary, the vaccination can also be administered in a specific time window after contact with measles.

READ ALSO: Can you expect your doctor in Austria to speak English?

The Health Ministry said: "Due to the current development, your own vaccination status should be checked urgently: sufficient protection exists after two confirmed vaccinations against measles-mumps-rubella or if it is proven by means of antibody determination that sufficient protection is present in the blood."

How dangerous is the disease?

According to infection specialist Herwig Kollaritsch, measles should not be considered harmless. 

An infection kills most of the immune memory cells and leads to a long-term immune deficiency against other diseases.

"If children under the age of one fall ill with measles, they have a high risk of one in 600 of contracting this particular type of meningitis, SSPE, which is fatal, a few years later. In addition, measles leads to weakening the immune system that lasts for several years and increases the risk of dying from other infectious diseases," according to the Ministry of Health.


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