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Italy tops EU for number of measles cases with 3,400

Rate of contagion three times worse in Holland

08 January, 15:02
Italy tops EU for number of measles cases with 3,400 (ANSA) - Rome, January 8 - More than a quarter of all measles cases in the European Union occurred in Italy between November 2012 and October 2013, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said Wednesday.

Despite the widespread use of the MMR vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella, the ECDC said the objective of totally wiping out measles is still a long way off. Its report on the severe respiratory illness, distinguished by all-body rash and fever, found 3,400 of just over 12,000 cases in the European Union were located just in Italy, although the highest rate of contagion was in Holland, with 130 cases per million inhabitants.

The disease rate in Italy was 56 cases per million, third after Romania.

Topping the list of measles-ridden countries along with Holland, Romania and Italy were the UK and Germany.

Meanwhile, Portugal was virtually measles-free, at just 0.1 case per million residents. The ECDC said 87% of disease victims had not been vaccinated, while 9% had vaccinations that were incomplete.

The most vulnerable to falling ill were infants of less than one year of age.

The ECDC noted that the number of cases is low compared to the outbreaks seen in 2010 and 2011. The ECDC also reported 40,000 cases of rubella in the EU, 99% of which occurred in Poland.

Controversy swirled around the MMR vaccine after The Lancet's 1998 publication of a faulty research paper supporting a theory that the vaccine could cause autism spectrum disorders.

The Lancet paper, which had attracted widespread media coverage and scared a number of parents from vaccinating their children, was partially retracted in 2004 and fully retracted in 2010.

The World Health Organization estimated that in 158,000 deaths were caused globally by measles, down from 630,000 in 1990.