An increasing incidence of measles has been reported in Romania lately.
On Wednesday, the “Victor Babes” Infectious Disease Hospital in Timisoara, western Romania, announced that the number of cases of measles was on the rise. Timisoara is actually the county with the highest number of such cases reported. As many as 30 patients were hospitalized there in the first three days of the year alone, the youngest patient being only six weeks old. Another 124 children had been hospitalized in December.
The measles outbreak last fall had the Romanian Healthcare Ministry, together with representatives of the World Health Organization, UNICEF and the Public Health Institute, propose a set of measures aimed at curbing the spread of the virus. These measures include lowering the vaccination age to 9 months, because, according to specialists, one characteristic of this epidemics is that it affects babies under one year of age. Another measure is the vaccination of children aged 5 to 9 who have not been given the second shot.
So far, 2000 cases of measles have been reported across the country, 10 of which have resulted in the death of the patients. According to the Healthcare Ministry, the number of cases has increased because parents have started to refuse to have their children immunized. Specialists say that observing epidemiological rules, such as the one regarding vaccination, is important, because it is the most effective means of preventing the disease from spreading. Even if the vaccine does not ensure full immunization, at least the disease has a milder form. Physicians have warned that infection with the measles virus might lead to complications, such as severe bronchitis and otitis, viral pneumonia and encephalitis.
The measles outbreak has brought back to the forefront a controversial topic in Romania. A growing number of parents have decided to no longer have their children immunized, because of the side effects of vaccines. According to official statistics, the vaccination rate has dropped dramatically in Romania, by some 20%, below the safety level of 95% recommended by the World Health Organization.
Moreover, Romania is faced with the largest number of cases of rubella, tuberculosis and hepatitis B in Europe. Although such serious diseases could be prevented through vaccination, in Romania the immunization process is very slow. The reasons are the lack of vaccines and people’s lack of trust in this medical procedure. On the other hand, physicians complain that the National Immunization Program stumbles every step of the way, because there are not enough shots.
In Romania, the Healthcare Ministry recommends a specific vaccination scheme, but this is not compulsory, therefore parents can choose to use it partially or not at all, with no legal consequences whatsoever.