As a National Reference Center, Sciensano confirms suspected cases of measles.
Sciensano collects data on measles cases in Belgium and monitors the number and severity of cases. These data are published annually in an annual report, which you can find below. Sciensano also monitors the risk of epidemics, in coordination with regional powers.
Sciensano is also responsible for monitoring the elimination status of measles in Belgium and coordinating the Committee for the Elimination of Measles and Rubella in Belgium. To do this, two Sciensano teams work together:
- The Infectious Diseases Epidemiology Department: epidemiological monitoring, disease impact estimation, surveillance by a network of pediatricians, epidemiological support to public authorities in the case of an outbreak, reporting and coordination of the Committee for the Elimination of Measles and Rubella in Belgium
- The National Reference Center for measles, mumps and rubella (NRC): diagnosis, confirmation and identification or circulating viruses
Finally, the Vaccine and Blood Product Quality Department is the Belgian Official Medicines Control Laboratory (OMCL), which is responsible for the quality control of the Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) and Measles-Mumps-Rubella-Varicella (MMRV) vaccines before they can be placed on the European market.
Identifying circulating measles viruses as the National Reference Center for measles
The National Reference Center (NRC) confirms suspected cases of measles. It does this by conducting saliva tests. This test is the most recommended test because both specific measles antibodies (IgM) and virus (PCR) specific antibodies can be determined in the saliva. In addition, the NRC analyses the circulating measles virus, whereby several cases (in Belgium and abroad) can be linked to each other. More information can be found on the NRC website for measles, mumps and rubella.
Monitoring the elimination status of measles in Belgium
In order to combat measles (and rubella), the World Health Organization (WHO) has drawn up an elimination plan that is being followed up by all Member States of the European region, including Belgium. The elimination of measles means that there may be fewer than one case per million inhabitants per year in Belgium.
Sciensano monitors the elimination status of measles (and rubella) in Belgium and compiles the annual status report for the WHO.
Coordinating the Committee for the Elimination of Measles and Rubella in Belgium
Sciensano coordinates the Committee for the Elimination of Measles and Rubella, as well as the National Verification Committee for the Elimination of Measles and Rubella in Belgium.
The Committee for the Elimination of Measles and Rubella was established in 2003 in Belgium to meet the WHO’s expectations for the elimination of measles (and rubella). This committee consists of several experts (including responsible members of the competent communities, physician groups, academics, microbiologists, clinicians, epidemiologists, etc.) who meet at least once a year to discuss the problem of measles (and rubella) in Belgium.
In addition, since 2012 there has also been a National Verification Committee for the Elimination of Measles and Rubella in Belgium, in response to WHO guidelines. The National Verification Committee consists of three independent scientific experts.
Control of MMR and MMRV vaccines for measles
Sciensano is the Belgian Official Medicines Control Laboratory (OMCL) and is responsible for the quality control of the Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) and Measles-Mumps-Rubella-Varicella (MMRV) vaccines before they can be placed on the European market. This control is carried out by the OMCL, independently of the vaccine manufacturer and for each batch separately. This control consists on the one hand of a critical review of the production data and quality analyses carried out by the vaccine manufacturer and on the other hand of additional analyses carried out by an OMCL. Thus, the Vaccine and Blood Product Quality Department performs various laboratory analyses according to the European Official Control Authority Batch Release (OCABR) guidelines. In addition, the Department also checks whether the production and quality data of the vaccine manufacturer are in conformity with the specifications as approved and recorded in the registration dossier. If a batch complies with all the quality criteria, the Department issues a certificate to the manufacturer, the so-called EU batch release certificate, and the vaccine may enter the European market.