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Italy: Measles outbreak raging in Europe could be brought to U.S., doctors warn

21 Oct, 2018
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A raging measles outbreak in Europe may be a warning sign of what could occur in the U.S. if something doesn’t change soon, experts say.

So far this year, there have been 41,000 cases in Europe and 40 deaths, according to the World Health Organization. The European experience may offer a window on how quickly things can go awry when parents choose not to vaccinate their children, doctors caution.

 
 

Because measles is relatively rare in the U.S., many Americans have no idea of the disease’s frightening impact and its stunning contagiousness.

 
 

 

Many forget that measles isn’t just a childhood disease.

Silvia Rosetti, who lives in Rome, still has nightmares about contracting measles when she was 32 weeks pregnant in 2017. When Rosetti, now 41, was a child, measles vaccines were not required and she didn’t think about the risk of exposure when she first became pregnant. She was healthy and ecstatic at the thought of having her first child. But then she caught measles and the symptoms came on in a rush: fever, cough and congestion so bad she could barely breathe.

“The situation got worse and worse so they decided to do a C-section,” Rosetti said. “I went into quarantine for five days. I couldn’t see my baby.” Her newborn son, Nathan, was also quarantined until doctors determined he was not infected. Rosetti developed pneumonia as a complication of her measles and was so weak she couldn’t stand up.

 

“And I had a rash even in my eyes, so I couldn’t see anything,” Rosetti told NBC News.

Rosetti eventually recovered. Her baby, Nathan is now a year old and has gotten all his vaccinations.

“If you do the vaccination, you love yourself, you love your sons, and you love everybody,” she said. “You protect everybody. It’s not just for myself or for my son.”

Image: Silvia Rosetti
Silvia Rosetti contracted measles when she was 32 weeks pregnant. “It was really painful and I had a high fever. I was destroyed,” she told NBC News. Courtesy Silvia Rosetti

Rosetti is one of the more than 2,000 people in Italy who have been diagnosed with measles already this year.

 

“We have a very serious situation,” said Dr. Alberto Villani, pediatric infectious disease doctor at Bambino Gesù Pediatric Hospital and the president of the Italian Pediatric Society. “People are dying from measles. This was unbelievable five or 10 years ago.”

Even in England, which had been declared free of measles by the World Health Organization a year ago, cases are surging.

The reason, experts say, is that in Europe, many parents have opted to skip vaccinating their children. “It’s the main factor leading to the outbreaks,” said Anca Paduraru of the European Commission in Brussels. “It’s unacceptable to have in the 21st century diseases that should have been and could have been eradicated.”

At least 95 percent of the population must have received at least two doses of measles vaccine to prevent outbreaks, WHO said. Some parts of Europe are below 70 percent.

 

The measles vaccine has been available in the U.S. since 1963, and is now commonly administered to children in tandem with the vaccines for mumps and rubella. The effectiveness of the vaccine led federal officials to declare measles eradicated in the U.S. back in 2000. Before the vaccine, there were 3 million to 4 million cases annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“They don’t realize their child is at risk for measles meningitis, encephalitis and permanent brain damage.”

But the success of vaccines has at least in part been their undoing.

Many parents are unfamiliar with the havoc measles can wreak because there have been few cases in the U.S. since the vaccine became widely available, said Dr. Jeffrey D. Klausner, a professor of medicine and public health at the University of California, Los Angeles.

This entry was posted on Sunday, October 21st, 2018 at 10:04 am and is filed under Latest News.

Literature Literature archive

Baalen, S. van. 2018 Research Ethics 14(4), 1–17. https://doi.org/10.1177/1747016117750312
Lutz CS, Carr W, Cohn A, Rodriguez L. 2018 Vaccine Volume 36: 7445–7455

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