There are currently 460 cases of measles in Bulgaria, ranking it sixth in Europe, Chief State Health Inspector Associate Professor Angel Kunchev told a conference on April 20.
The figure means that the number of measles cases in Bulgaria has doubled in less than a month.
Of the total, 20 to 22 per cent are younger than 13 months, thus younger than immunisation age and three-quarters are children of Roma ethnicity, according to figures presented at the conference.
The largest numbers of cases are in Sofia – 124 in the city and 165 in the district. This is followed by Blagoevgrad, previously the district with the largest number, now totalling 135.
Kunchev said that in 2018, about 65 000 children across the world died of measles. Sooner or later, deaths in Bulgaria would follow, he said.
The outbreak of measles in Bulgaria, which started in the Blagoevgrad district in late 2018, was imported from North Macedonia, which in the past week declared a measles outbreak throughout the country.
A family from North Macedonia came on a skiing holiday in Bansko and after a few days, one of the children became ill. He was admitted to hospital in Razlog, where the necessary measures against the spread of the illness were not taken, resulting in a measles outbreak in the children’s ward of the hospital, with an initial 16 infections.
Kunchev said that it was a lie that the patients included children who had been vaccinated.
He said samples from 22 ill children in Samokov, who had been recorded as having been immunised, showed that in fact they had not been.
Doctors found not to be vaccinating as required would face the severest sanctions, including revocation of their licences and prosecution, Kunchev said.
Reports have shown the anti-vaccination movement to be a decisive factor in the measles outbreak. Previous media reports showed that cases resulted from parents having refused to have their children immunised, having believed disinformation they read on the internet.
Lawyer Maria Sharkova told the conference that one of the most frequently cited arguments of the anti-vaccination movements was that “vaccines in the US are not compulsory” but this neglected the fact that at the same time, a ban on such children being in childcare facilities was in force.
More recently, given the spreading of measles, there has been a growing shift from vaccines being recommended to vaccines being compulsory, meaning that the state puts greater weight on the right to life than on the right of parents to make choices.
On April 15, two UN agency chiefs warned of a global measles crisis, with a 300 per cent surge in the first three months of 2019 compared with the first three months of 2018.
Earlier in April, Bulgaria’s Health Ministry reported that there were 223 confirmed measles cases in Bulgaria, meaning that the figure had doubled in a month.