The Center for Coordination of Health Alerts and Emergencies (CCAES) of the Ministry of Health issued an alert on December 12 an outbreak of measles originated in an airplane from the airline Vueling. According to the data known so far, the index case (the one that originated the outbreak) was a passenger and, for the time being, five crew members have been identified as affected. The cases were detected in Madrid.
There is no data in the CCAES website nor in the epidemiological bulletin of the Carlos III Health Institute of the origin of the flight or of the nationality of the people involved in this outbreak, although ministry sources claim that there is some Spanish and that national and international flights are involved. The last weekly epidemiological bulletin, which collects data until December 18, does include 14 confirmed cases in the Community of Madrid, but does not specifically mention this outbreak. In all cases, less one considers them "imported", which means that the person developed the disease in Spain, but contracted it outside. For the total of the country, it registered 223, all but two, of which the place of contagion is unknown.
The activation of the surveillance protocol and the national plan for the eradication of measles requires paying special attention to those who see a doctor with symptoms of measles to determine if they are related to that outbreak. The information has also been transferred to the European alert network, since measles has an incubation period of one or two weeks. That means that it is still possible to detect affected people, either among the passengers or between people who have been in contact with someone infected.
Vaccination since the sixties
Health has not reported that active search measures are being carried out. Most people in Spain are vaccinated with measles, since the vaccine was developed in the sixties and here began to be widely distributed in 1965.
The virus is considered very infectious. It is concentrated in the throat and nose of patients, so when they cough or sneeze is easy to be transmitted. Enclosed places such as airplanes can be a good breeding ground for these outbreaks.
For almost everyone affected, it is a mild infection, which is characterized by high fever, runny nose and the appearance of red spots on the skin. But in some cases the disease can be serious and cause encephalitis that can be deadly. Even so, it is most likely that the majority of people who were not vaccinated as children – the coverage rate in Esaña of the triple virus is currently over 95%, according to the Health data – have passed the disease in their childhood , so they will have acquired the immunization naturally. In those who are not protected (due to not being vaccinated or because the medication has little effect), specialists warn that measles in adults can be more serious than in children.
Therefore, in this case the international alert is more necessary than the national one, because although in Spain the prevention plan (dating from 2012) considered that year as the end of the last outbreak, in other countries of our environment they do not have Such high protection rates, which means that the risk increases.