Risk of measles rises in many European countries

15th July 2008, Comments 0 comments

German medical group warns of measles risk this summer

Cologne -- Holiday makers should not underestimate the risk of contracting measles during the summer travel season.

Doctors report that the highly infectious virus is spreading through certain European countries, namely Switzerland, Austria, Ireland and England, and now also Italy, warned Germany's professional association for paediatricians in Cologne.

Officials in Italy report more than 1,500 cases of measles, mainly among young people since early 2008, and new cases are being reported almost daily in the north-western regions of Lombardy and Piedmont. Anyone planning to travel to these parts of Italy should therefore ensure that their immunisations are up to date before leaving home.

Infants that have not yet been inoculated because of their young age are especially vulnerable. An infant that gets the measles can suffer serious long-term effects.

"People taking a baby along with them should avoid places where large numbers of people are gathered," said Wolfram Hartmann, president of the paediatricians' association. The same applies to pregnant women who have not been inoculated or whose immunisation has expired. A measles infection during pregnancy can harm the fetus. Therefore, a women who hopes to become pregnant should be inoculated against measles.

Measles is best recognised by the rash it causes over the entire body. Another common symptom is watery eyes that are also especially sensitive to light. Occasionally, complications such as inflammation of the lungs or the brain can occur parallel to a measles infection.

Even months or years after recovering from the measles, a person can experience serious health conditions. This includes the very rare subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE), according to the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin. The disease is a fatal, chronic progressive encephalitis caused by the measles virus. It occurs mainly in children and young adults who suffer a primary measles infection before the age of two. SSPE usually causes death within three years.


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