The measles it continues to spread throughout the world. During the first quarter of the year cases have quadrupled compared to the same period last year, according to the World Health Organization. "To date, in 1709, 170 countries have reported 112,163 cases of measles to WHO, and last year in the same period, 28,124 patients had been counted in 163 countries." This represents an increase of almost 400% at worldwide. "Although these data are provisional (...), they indicate a trend. Many countries are victims of major measles spikes, and all regions of the world suffer a sustained increase in the number of cases. "
Africa is the most affected region, with an increase of 700% in the first three months of the year, followed by Europe (300%), the Eastern Mediterranean (100%), the Americas (60%) and the Southeast Asian region / Western Pacific (40%). The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Madagascar, Burma, the Philippines, Sudan, Thailand and Ukraine are the countries where the disease has most been triggered. There, according to the UN agency, has caused "numerous deaths, mainly among children of younger age."
The agency estimates that less than one case in 10 is known, which means that the scope of the epidemic is much more important than official statistics. Until 2016, the disease had declined, but is re-emerging in rich countries due to increasing distrust of vaccines, and in poor countries due to lack of access to treatment. In recent months, the number of cases also reached peaks in areas where the coverage of global vaccination is high. "Especially in the United States, Israel, Thailand and Tunisia, since the disease spread among groups of unvaccinated people," explains the agency.
The American outbreak
In the United States, according to figures published Monday by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are 555 cases reported in 20 states, which is the second worst epidemic in the country, since 1991. With the focus in New York, especially in Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods, there are 329 patients in a population of 8.5 million inhabitants, and 186 in Rockland County, with 300,000 residents.
In the United States, measles was eradicated in the year 2000. However, last week, the rapid spread of the virus through the New York neighborhood of Brooklyn caused Bill de Blasio, the mayor, declares a state of health emergency in four districts of Williamsburg, one of the main enclaves of the Jewish community. Y forced the neighbors or to those people who work in one of those neighborhoods, through a municipal order, to be vaccinated under a fine of up to 1,000 dollars (887 euros).
"There should be no doubt that vaccines are safe, effective and save lives," De Blasio said. This Monday, and as proof that the alert is not light, the City Council announced the closure of a nursery that did not want to comply with the obligation to transmit to the authorities the data on vaccination of their children. Some 23 schools and nurseries have also received warnings for not having excluded unvaccinated infants, according to the mayor's office.
The city had already launched a strong campaign several months ago to promote vaccination, distributing leaflets, spreading information online and calling thousands of members of the Orthodox community by phone in Yiddish. In Rockland, at the end of March, the authorities banned unvaccinated children in public places.
The demand for antivacunas
Many vaccines are theoretically mandatory in the United States to attend school, but 47 of the 50 states, including New York, have waivers, particularly for religious reasons. And families resist. On Monday, a group of anti-vaccine parents belonging to the Orthodox Jewish community sued New York City for forcing their children to immunize against measles, claiming that the city overreached its functions and violated their religious beliefs.
In a lawsuit filed in the Brooklyn Supreme Court, they argue that the measure of force vaccination to those who have been in contact with the disease under pain of fine It is excessive, and that the outbreak of measles that affects the city is "insufficient" to justify it: "Instead of using the legal mechanisms available such as quarantine, officials have imposed not only severe criminal and civil penalties for not getting vaccinated, but who have assured that they will be 'vaccinated against measles', introducing the specter of unjustifiable forced vaccination. "
The plaintiffs describe the decision as a "witch hunt", seek a temporary halt to this order and replace it with a measure that "controls measles and weighs the rights to the autonomy of the individual, informed consent and the free exercise of religion". The debate among the Orthodox communities of Brooklyn is open between those who reject and those who accept sanitary measures; and numerous rabbis and organizations defend the need to immunize young people in order to prevent the spread of the disease contagious and also that possible antisemitic episodes occur.
Against this background, the authorities attribute the situation to two linked factors: the importation of the disease from other countries or regions where there are outbreaks of measles and that movement against vaccines. The CDC, in fact, pointed out last week that the majority of cases were individuals who were not properly protected against the virus. In Western countries, anti-vaccines are based on a 1998 publication that links this treatment with autism, although it has been proven that its author, the British Andrew Wakefield, had falsified the results, and that multiple studies have shown that this vaccine does not increase the risk of autism.
Health officials insist that measles is very contagious. "If a person has it," the CDC warned, "90% of the people around them will be infected if they are not immune." The disease is manifested by a very high fever and a rash. It is contagious four days before and four days after this rash and, although it is often benign, can present serious complications, respiratory (pulmonary infections) and neurological (encephalitis), especially in frail people.