The Ministry of Health suspects two more cases of measles and fears a resurgence of polio and rubella.

Sunday, June 2, 2024, 02:00

The World Health Organization (WHO) stated Spain became a country free of endemic measles transmission in 2017 due to the small number of identified cases and outbreaks. Last year, six cases of the disease were suspected in the Canary Islands, none of them tested positive. Now they have found four and two more are suspected. This is explained by the head of the epidemiology department of the Public Health Directorate of the Government of the Canary Islands, Alvaro Torres, who also assures that There are two other diseases that are starting to become a public health concern: polio and rubella..

“We are thinking of doing campaign among women of childbearing age to vaccinate against rubella before pregnancy. The idea is that family doctors check the immune status before pregnancy,” he explained. And diseases such as measles, rubella or polio restoration of presence in Europe due to the refusal of part of the population to vaccinate.

“Measles has not been eradicated, but it has been brought under control. Unfortunately, there have been local chains of transmission in Spain and also for a few days in the Canary Islands, although the first case, which usually originates from abroad, we have not been able to verify, but we suspect that this is the case.

Until the last week of May, Spain had 133 confirmed cases in 14 autonomous communities.Catalonia (62 people) and Valencia (17 people) suffered the most.

Infections that cannot be avoided

Four cases have been confirmed in the Canary Islands, three of them in minors, including one that caused an outbreak in an emergency department visit. According to Alvaro Torres, these first two infections could not be avoided because they are less than 12 months old, which is when the first dose of the vaccine is administered. Less common is a fourth infection in a health care worker who treated a little girl. “He was vaccinated and became very mildly ill, but this is rare. In fact, many medical workers came to take care of the girl, and none of them became infected. And we continue to work with many contacts, hundreds,” telling them that Check their vaccination status and let them know what to do if they have symptoms.. In addition, they had “three suspected cases, one already ruled out,” adds Torres.

The concern not only about measles, but also about rubella and polio (which can cause paralysis) is that while in Spain “we have very few anti-vaccines and we have high coverage, We do not live in a niche, but are a tourist industry.

From January to May this year, only 3 cases of rubella were detected in Spain. The latest rubella outbreak identified in Spain occurred in a group of South American women in Madrid who had only been vaccinated against measles. If a woman is pregnant and gets rubella, the virus can cause spontaneous abortion or be passed on to the baby, who will be born with congenital rubella syndrome, which causes cataracts, deafness and cardiovascular disease.

“Nonspecific cold”

In case of measles the disease is “irritating”“,” says Torres. “It begins with a nonspecific cold,” which is followed by “conjunctivitis and on the fourth day a rash (urticaria), which begins on the head, spreads to the torso and limbs and is relieved in the same order, which is very typical. . This leaves the child very ill and in percentage 10 to 15% may result in meningitis, encephalitis, or pneumonia.

Torres explains that it is highly contagious. If you have a cold on Friday, it doesn’t occur to you that it’s measles, this is one of the reasons why multiple secondary cases can occur when the population is not vaccinated,” the expert adds, pointing out that they have extended contact tracing to 21 on the 1st, when data indicate a period of 12 to 14 days. “We were very generous,” says the epidemiologist.

Regarding polio, Scientist recalls that there have been “zero cases” in Spain since 1989. Europe was declared polio-free in 2022, but the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control warned in April that 2.4 million children in the EU had not received three doses of the vaccine on time.

“Vaccination coverage is good, the problem cannot be made worse. This is the icing on the cake.”

In the Canary Islands, vaccination against measles among the child population is quite good, explains Alvaro Torres, head of the epidemiology department of the Public Health Directorate of the Government of the Canary Islands. Especially the first dose, which is administered after a year. According to him, the coverage there is “very high” and reaches 95%. He admits that some “work” needs to be done on the second dose, which is given after three years, because coverage there is 90%. Despite this, he adds, “sometimes the vaccine is not registered,” so he believes that in both cases, more boys and girls are actually vaccinated against measles. Despite all this, he continues, “we shouldn’t exaggerate the problem, it’s just icing on the cake” because in epidemiology, “we’re only happy when we reach 100%.”

In Spain, vaccination is not mandatory, but recommended. “In Italy, after a very large outbreak of measles in the north, just before the pandemic, if you are not vaccinated, you do not receive official assistance or cannot enroll in public school, this is a way of forcing vaccination. And in France there are also measures of this type. In Spain they have not yet thought that this is necessary. Debates about obligatoryness are always postponed. But if something works, making it mandatory is counterproductive. “Our numbers are still very high,” he adds.

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