Deadly measles outbreak spreads in Europe as vaccinations fall

Romania's vaccination rate fell as the country's anti-vaccination movement grew. Now, it has Europe's highest measles rate (by far), and 17 children are dead. Getty Images

Romania has seen nearly 2,000 cases of measles since February 2016, World Health Organization data shows.

The country’s vaccination rate is 86 per cent, well below the 95 per cent recommended for “herd immunity” against infectious disease.

Romania’s measles outbreak has killed 17 children there, none of whom were vaccinated.

Romania’s vaccination rate has fallen sharply over the last decade, driven in part by a vocal anti-vaccination movement there. The country now has Europe’s highest measles infection rate, and its fifth-lowest vaccination rate.

Measles was most common in parts of Romania with the lowest vaccination rates, WHO said.

READ: Trump’s support for anti-vaxxers could lead to deadly outbreaks, disease expert warns

In 2013, UNICEF expressed concern about the spread of anti-vaccine messages on social media networks in central and eastern Europe.

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The region had successfully kept diseases like polio and measles at bay for many years, but, UNICEF warned,  “this has led to complacency toward the diseases and has unfortunately made vaccines, rather than the diseases, the focus of debate and discussion.”

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WHO’s data went up to the end of January. Early information for February showed that the number of cases was rising “sharply,”  a statement said.

READ: How fading dread of deadly diseases could let them stage a comeback

Italy, which has Europe’s second-highest measles infection rate (though a fifth that of Romania) also has low — and falling — vaccination rates.

Of 32 European countries that have had measles cases since February 2016, 22 had measles vaccination rates below 95 per cent.

In January, 84 per cent of Europe’s measles cases happened in seven countries, all of which had vaccination rates under 95 per cent.

About 10 per cent of children with measles get ear infections, which can lead to hearing loss, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control warns. About five per cent will get pneumonia, and one in 1,000 will die.

Nova Scotia has seen two small measles outbreaks recently, in Halifax in February, and in March in Digby, in the province’s southwest.

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WATCH: A complication of measles that kills children years after they have been infected is more common than first thought. As Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports, the alarming news has doctors calling for mandatory vaccinations.

Click to play video: 'Measles complication has Alberta doctors calling for mandatory vaccinations'
Measles complication has Alberta doctors calling for mandatory vaccinations

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