European measles resurgence: virus found in Brussels wastewater

Research by KU Leuven shows that the measles virus has been detected in Brussels' wastewater. According to VRT NWS on Thursday, there are six confirmed cases in Brussels.

Following the European Centre for Disease Control's warning on 16 February about the resurgence of the measles virus, the KU Leuven research team collected water samples in Leuven and the north and south of Brussels.

"We have been researching wastewater for three years, so we started right away," virologist Elke Wollants, laboratory manager at the Rega Institute of KU Leuven, told VRT NWS. ​ "The results from Leuven and Brussels South remained negative. In Brussels North, we found the measles virus in three consecutive samples."

Natural infection

"What we observe in our research is that the presence of the measles virus in sewage is not the result of measles vaccination, but rather a natural infection," she said.

The presence of the virus in wastewater indicates an increase in Brussels. "Through [public health institute] Sciensano, we know about six positive cases in Brussels. If we detect the measles virus in the sewage of a city with a million inhabitants, several infections will likely go under the radar."

She is urging people to vaccinate their children, as it is "the only way to protect yourself against the virus".

It was also announced on Thursday that there is an outbreak of measles in Eindhoven and the surrounding area. The Dutch city's health service has received reports of 14 children, with an average age of five, and one adult who have contracted the highly contagious disease. All were unvaccinated, the health service said.

According to the European Centre for Disease Control, the virus has killed six people in Romania and one in Ireland in 2024. Sciensano and Health minister Frank Vandenbroucke have been informed of the research findings.



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