Measles: the disease that is returning to Europe and that can cause blindness, brain inflammation and death

Measles: the disease that is returning to Europe and that can cause blindness, brain inflammation and death

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Measles is easily spread between susceptible individuals.

The World Health Organization recently announced that measles cases in Europe reached a record.

According to the figures of the organization, in the first six months of the year there were 41,000 cases of the disease (and 37 deaths), compared to 23,927 last year and 5,273 the previous year.

WHO experts warned that European countries should take measures to stop the spread of this disease.

But what dangers does measles really bring and why is the number of cases increasing?

Symptom

Measles is a highly infectious disease . It is spread through contact with drops of fluids that the sick person expels when he coughs and sneezes.

Symptoms include mucus in the nose, sneezing (a flu-like state), signs that the body is fighting an infection (fever, tiredness, muscle pain, loss of appetite), irritated eyes, gray spots in the mouth and red spots on the skin .

The latter begin to appear near the line where the hair grows and then move to the head, neck and the rest of the body.

Measles
Copyright of the SPL image
Image caption The virus is spread through contact with drops of fluids that the sick person expels when he coughs and sneezes.

The infection can last between 7 and 10 days. But while most people recover completely, it can cause serious complications and lead to death.

“Some people think it’s a simple rash, but the problem is that it can be much more than that,” explains Smitha Mundasad, BBC Health Correspondent.

“It can lead to serious complications such as brain inflammation, meningitis, blindness and liver problems , just to name a few,” he adds.

Lack of vaccination

The main reason behind the increase in cases is one: the lack of vaccination.

“In a way, vaccines have become victims of their own success, and because they work so well, many have stopped seeing the serious complications of diseases like measles, they think, ‘It’s not a serious disease so why do I need to get vaccinated? ‘”, says Mundasad.

Vaccinated child
Copyright of the GETTY IMAGES image
Image caption Vaccination is crucial to avoid the spread of measles.

“But we know that that can not be further from the truth,” adds Mundasad.

Another major obstacle to vaccination is the anti- vaccine movement.

Although it has existed for years, it gained strength in the late 1990s, when the British gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield established – without any basis or foundation – that there was a link between the combined vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) and autism. 

His research, which today is completely discredited , was published about 20 years ago in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet , he studied the case of only 12 children.

Andrew Wakefield
Copyright of the PA image
Image caption A now discredited study by British gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield gave strength to the anti-vaccine movement.

An immense and overwhelming majority of doctors and scientists around the world says that linking to the triple vaccine and autism is completely wrong and now there have been many studies that show that there is no link.

In fact, the British authorities revoked Andrew Wakefield his license to practice medicine in the country and The Lancet magazine withdrew the study , and acknowledged that he should never have published it.

However, the truth is that the study gave fuel to the anti-vaccines movement and there are experts who argue that, because of this information, many children throughout the world were not vaccinated and as a consequence many contracted measles.

The problem of collective immunity

However, we must remember that the anti-vaccine movement is as old as the vaccines themselves.

Since the 18th century, the subject has been a fertile ground for conspiracy theories that reflect distrust in the authorities, and that consider vaccines as a tool of the establishment.

Vaccine
Copyright of the HULTON ARCHIVE image
Image caption The anti-vaccine movement is as old as the vaccines themselves.

On the other hand, many populist leaders have taken advantage of the skepticism surrounding vaccines.

In France, for example, Marine le Pen, of the far-right National Front, spoke against compulsory vaccination, while in Italy, the upper house of parliament, recently voted in favor of a measure to abolish the law that requires vaccinating children before starting school.

This amendment means that parents who do not vaccinate their children will not have to pay a fine.

And there are social networks …

“The problem is that now, social networks can spread broadly and quickly misinformation,” says Mundasad.

“That’s why public health experts fear that some parents are listening to these skeptical voices and not the important message they want to spread and that vaccines can save lives and that they have already given security to millions of children around the world. “

According to the WHO, however, only the measles vaccine has saved 20 million lives in the last two decades.

Measles virus
Copyright of the GETTY IMAGES image

But another problem is that many countries do not have a well-established health system to provide this vaccine to all the people who need it.

“And the problem with vaccines is that they work on the so-called principle of” collective immunity “, and in this case it means that 95% of the population needs to be vaccinated and immunized so that the community is fully protected, ” Mundasad explains. .

“That’s why some experts say that choosing not to give the vaccine to a child can be an individual choice, but this makes other people (young people, older people) vulnerable to contracting a disease that can be lethal.”

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Rava Desk

Rava is an online news portal providing recent news, editorials, opinions and advice on day to day happenings in Pakistan.

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