Paris 2024: Fears of measles resurgence. GETTY IMAGES

Health agency has warned of the risk of importing the disease as France will welcome millions of foreign visitors during the Olympic Games, according to AFP, in a new worry for the Organising Committee chaired by Tony Estanguet.

Public Health France (SPF) is calling for vigilance in the face of a resurgence of measles in France in 2023. Last year, 117 cases of measles were reported (including 31 imported cases), compared to with 15 in 2022, 16 in 2021 and 240 in 2020, according to a report published by the health agency on Wednesday 3 April, which confirms the international trend. No deaths have been reported. 

"If the number of cases has increased eightfold compared to 2022", mainly due to a grouped episode among secondary school students in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, "it is still remains very limited compared to the pre-Covid period" (average of 1,538 cases between 2016-2019), the agency specifies. 

Since the last epidemic, in 2018-2019, which was interrupted at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, in 2020, the measles virus had "circulated very little, causing a few isolated sporadic cases" in France. However, from 2022 and especially in 2023, a resurgence of measles was observed worldwide, following the decline in vaccination coverage observed after Covid. 

Vaccines are essential in the fight against measles. GETTY IMAGES
Vaccines are essential in the fight against measles. GETTY IMAGES

Measles, a highly contagious viral disease, is often benign, but can cause serious respiratory and neurological complications. It usually presents itself as a rash preceded by rhinitis, conjunctivitis and cough, accompanied by very high fever and severe malaise. 

In 2023, it led to 27 hospitalisations in France, including two in intensive care, mainly children under five and adults over 30, and 12 cases of complications, mainly pneumonia. The disease mainly affects children, but not only. The median age of cases was 12 years, higher than in previous years, linked to the outbreak among secondary school students. 

In 2023, France recorded "a notable increase in imported cases” (31 compared with five in 2022), more than half of which were unvaccinated, leading to "chains of transmission." Seven epidemic outbreaks (including four linked to imported cases) were recorded, the largest in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes with 64 cases.