Measles Epidemic in Serbia Threatens Croatia

Total Croatia News

Falling vaccination rates in both countries contribute to the spread of the disease.

On Thursday, the Croatian Institute for Public Health (HZJZ) warned about the epidemic of measles in Serbia, adding that there was a possibility of the introduction of the measles virus into Croatia, reports Jutarnji List on December 29, 2017.

Dangers of the epidemic of measles in Croatia existed even before the current outbreak in Serbia, because in Europe and elsewhere in the world measles continuously appears sporadically or epidemically. If an unvaccinated person comes into contact with an infected person during travel, they are highly likely to be infected, and there is a possibility of transmitting the infection when the person in question returns to Croatia, says the HZJZ. A 30-year-old man from Belgrade died on Wednesday in a hospital intensive care unit due to health complications caused by the measles infection.

According to the data of the Serbian Institute of Public Health, in the last three months, a total of 630 cases of measles have been registered in Serbia, with as many as 91 percent of infected persons being unvaccinated, or having an incomplete or unknown vaccination status.

Slovenia has recommended vaccinations to its citizens who are going to celebrate the New Year in one of the countries where there has been a recent appearance of measles if they haven’t done so already. Every year in Croatia there are individual cases of measles imported from other countries, but thanks to the high vaccination rates among the Croatian population, in most cases there is no spread of infection in the community, HZJZ adds.

Enhanced border surveillance measures at borders, in airports and seaports are ineffective, since an infected person can be perfectly healthy when entering the country and become ill and infectious only after returning home.

The risk of the epidemic depends primarily on vaccination rates. In Croatia, the rates have been in decline for the last six years and differ among individual counties and towns. The lowest vaccinations rates are in Dubrovnik-Neretva County and Split-Dalmatia County, followed by Osijek-Baranja County and Primorje-Gorski Kotar County, HZJZ notes.

There would be a possibility of measles virus circulation if it were to appear in a town with low vaccination rates, especially among pre-school children, which could result in a small epidemic. Since children are mostly vaccinated when starting school, the risk of measles in schools is lower than it is in preschool facilities.

There are population categories with lower vaccination rates than the average, such as migrating Roma. A virus in a Roma population could result in a small epidemic of measles, which last occurred in 2014/2015 after multiple introductions of measles from abroad among the Roma in Croatia.

The most important advice that citizens can use to mitigate the risk of measles is to compensate for missed vaccinations, HZJZ says. If someone returns from abroad with a high temperature, followed by a rash on the face and body, they should contact their doctor for a timely diagnosis and for the immediate protection of nearby persons. The arrival at the doctor’s office should be announced by telephone in order to avoid contact with other patients in the waiting room, as the gathering of persons in waiting rooms is conducive to the easy spread of the infection.

Mortality from measles is about 0.1 percent, i.e. one in one thousand people die, according to HZJZ.

Translated from Jutarnji List.


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