In reaction to the measles outbreak in neighbouring Romania, Bulgarian health officials have sent recommendations to the regional inspectorates, in an attempt to keep the disease from spreading into Bulgaria.
The National Institute of Public Health in Bucharest released numbers, according to which 3,446 people were infected in Romania until a week ago, while 17 children have died from measles. The outbreak has spread to 37 of 41 Romanian districts.
One of the districts hit by the largest number of cases seems to be Timis, where 530 people had measles. Four children died in that region. In the capital Bucharest, one child died since the outbreak was first registered in the summer of 2016.
All over Romania, the health authorities have jump-started vaccination campaigns for children between 9 months and 9 years of age, since they are the most vulnerable. According to the institutions, the outbreak is the result of anti-vaccination campaigns on social networks, which had convinced many Romanian parents.
Romanian Roma are more likely to be infected, including children in this minority group, due to their limited access to medical care.
This measles outbreak in Romania is bad news for neighbouring countries as well, including Bulgaria. The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control came to the conclusion that there is a high probability for an exportation of the disease.
The authority believes that “considering the size and geographical spread of the ongoing measles outbreak in Romania, the likelihood of exportation of measles cases is high.” This was proven by the fact that “ongoing measles outbreaks in three other E.U. countries have been linked to the current outbreak in Romania.”
The number of measles cases in Italy and the U.K. is unusually high as well, while the situation in Romania is far worse.
In Sofia, the Bulgarian Ministry of Health has called on the regional health inspectorates to collect information about possible cases. According to the authority, family doctors should check the immunization records of their patients, in order to see whether measles vaccinations were administered. Especially the records of children were important, the ministry said.
The fact that the Bulgarian authorities are scrambling to collect data and give advice shows that they are afraid the outbreak might actually spread to Bulgaria.
There is one positive trend in Bulgaria. According to Bulgarian language media reports, less parents of babies and toddlers refuse vaccinations these days. BNT quoted a pediatrician who said, in 32 years on the job, she had not seen a single case of severe health complications because of vaccinations.
Children usually get three-component vaccines, which provide immunity against measles, rubella and mumps. Experts say it is very effective.