Measles epidemic in pediatric population in Greece during 2017-2018: Epidemiological, clinical characteristics and outcomes

Maria Gianniki, Tania Siahanidou, Evanthia Botsa, Athanasios Michos
PloS One 2021, 16 (1): e0245512

BACKGROUND AND AIM: A measles outbreak occurred in Greece during 2017-2018 affecting mainly pediatric population. The aim of the study was to describe the epidemiological and clinical characteristics of the cases diagnosed in the major pediatric tertiary hospital of Athens, where 26.5% of national pediatric measles cases were diagnosed and treated.

METHODS: This is a retrospective study of children 0-16 years old, who presented at the emergency department and/or were hospitalized with clinical presentation compatible with measles and diagnosis was confirmed with molecular detection of the measles RNA in pharyngeal swabs. Epidemiological, clinical and laboratory characteristics were retrieved from medical records and analyzed.

RESULTS: A total of 578 children with measles were identified during the study period. 322 (55.7%) were male with median age 36 months (range:1-193), while the largest number of documented cases (251; 43.4%) were children aged 1-5 years. Most children (429/578; 74.2%) belonged to the Roma minority and only 64 (11.1%) had Greek origin. 497 (91.5%) children were unvaccinated and 37 (6.8%) were partially vaccinated with measles vaccine. Hospitalization was required for 342 (59.2%) children, whereas one or more complications were reported in 230 (67.2%) of them. Most frequent complications were elevated transaminases (139; 40.6%), acute otitis media (72; 21%), dehydration (67; 19.6%) and pneumonia (58; 16.9%). 11 children (3.2%) required intensive care admission for altered mental status/status epilepticus (3), sepsis (2) and ARDS (6). 119/342 (34.8%) children were treated with antibiotics because of possible or confirmed bacterial coinfection. One death was reported, concerning an 11-month-old unvaccinated infant, with underlying dystrophy, who died of sepsis.

CONCLUSION: Measles is not an innocent viral infection, as it is still characterized by high morbidity and complications rates. Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated populations could trigger new outbreaks, resulting in significant cost in public health. To avoid future measles outbreaks, high vaccination coverage should be achieved, as well as closing immunity gaps in the population and ensuring high-quality measles surveillance.

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