Fear of measles leads to sudden increase in number of people vaccinated

The increased spread of the virus has made people cautious, driving up the number of adults going in for booster doses.
The increased spread of the virus has made people cautious, driving up the number of adults going in for booster doses. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

While in the first quarter of last year, just 179 adults had their measles vaccination refreshed, this year the number jumped to 1,337, the Health Board reported on Tuesday, almost as many as were vaccinated in all of 2018.

A total of 1,502 adults were vaccinated against the measles in 2018, and just 373 in 2017. The current upward trend is driven at least in part by recently more frequent reports of the disease spreading in various areas worldwide.

Irina Filippova, chief specialist at the Health Board's department for infectious diseases and epidemic prevention, said that the main reason for the increased spread of the measles is that the number of vaccinated people has decreased in recent years.

"The measles are back in countries where they had already been extinct, for example in the United States," Filippova said. "As it's likely that the measles will eventually reach Estonia as well, it is very important to protect both yourself as well as those close to you against this very contagious disease."

Getting a booster dose of the vaccine makes sense for adults either once the disease is spreading at an increased pace, or in the case of trips planned to countries where it is still widespread. The same applies for people in families with children less than a year old, pregnant women, family members with immune deficiency, or someone who might get infected in connection with their profession.

The measles virus is extremely contagious. Of 100 non-vaccinated people, 98 typically contract the disease. Symptoms include high fever (typically referred to as the four-day fever in the case of the measles), cough, head cold, sneezing, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The maculopapular rash typical for the disease follows, typically spreading from behind the ears on to the face and neck.

Side effects can be serious for people in known risk groups and include pneumonia, ear infections and encephalitis. If not treated correctly, the disease can be fatal.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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