Number of measles diseases in Germany has risen sharply
When it comes to the symptoms of runny nose, cough or fever, everyone first thinks of a normal flu. However, these can also be signs of measles. According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) in Berlin, there was an enormous increase in measles in 2013 and with 1,700 cases significantly more than in November 2012. There were only 170 cases that were registered. For WHO, the numbers are cause for concern, as they are 20 times higher than what is considered acceptable.
The infectious disease, which actually affects children, causes coughs, eye infections and high fever in addition to the typical red skin spots. In extreme cases, life-threatening complications such as pneumonia and brain inflammation or internal dehydration due to severe diarrhea can also occur. The measles virus is transmitted through direct contact or droplet infection.
To avoid spreading, only vaccination can be carried out. There are no other therapy options. But in Germany the willingness to get vaccinated is sinking more and more. A spokeswoman for the Federal Ministry of Health said that legal regulations should also be considered if the vaccination rate does not increase despite information campaigns. Then there might be a compulsory vaccination. In order to meet the demands of the WHO for a moderate disease rate, the highest 80 cases in Germany are likely to be registered each year, explains Dorothea Matysiak-Klose from the RKI in Berlin.
The number of measles diseases in Germany is constantly fluctuating. In 2001 more than 6000 measles cases were registered. In 2004 there were only 123 and a year later, almost 800 were counted again. "There was no improvement or deterioration," said Matysiak-Klose, looking back over the past few years. Because measles is one of the most contagious viral diseases, contact with other people should be restricted as much as possible. This spring there was already a major outbreak in Berlin-Brandenburg. A trade fair visitor had infected many of the 30,000 guests there. "After that, the virus was probably brought to Bavaria and also caused an outbreak there," says the expert. Bavaria and Berlin are leading measles statistics this year, with almost 800 and 500 cases respectively. According to Matysiak-Klose, there was a major outbreak in France in 2011, which has also led to many diseases in Germany.
Small children and young adults particularly at risk Just a simple cough or sniffing is enough to transmit the virus. As the immune system is weakened enormously, bacterial infections can also occur. In 20 to 30 percent, these are even fatal. There are usually serious complications in children under the age of five and in adults over the age of 20. "Vaccination is the best protection against an illness. This applies not only to children, but also to adults," said a spokeswoman for the Federal Ministry of Health. But not everyone sees it as a necessity. There are some parents who believe that their children should go through measles, the spokeswoman said.
In order to increase the willingness to vaccinate among adolescents and young adults, the government must expand the educational work. Experts explain that children need two successive vaccinations to build up adequate vaccination protection. According to the Ministry of Health, this is the case for an average of 92 percent of school beginners in Germany. Ideally, according to RKI expert Matysiak-Klose, 95 percent of the total population should be vaccinated. A campaign worth millions is launched under the title "Deutschland sucht den vaccination certificate" to inform about measles and vaccination.
Doctors speak out in favor of vaccinations But resistance is also forming. The campaign "Germany burns the vaccination card" warns opponents on the Internet of possible vaccine damage. Children and adolescent doctors demand that all children in public schools and day care centers should be vaccinated. "At least everyone who benefits from a publicly funded facility should be vaccinated." Doctor Ulrich Fegeler points this out on the recommendation of his professional association. However, the experts consider it unrealistic that vaccination is mandatory, as in the former GDR, since they assume that the awareness campaigns will have a large reach. (fr)