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Italy experience measles epidemic
© Eric Risberg

Italy experiences measles epidemic

20/04/17Government

Italy has announced that it is experiencing a measles epidemic following a fall in vaccinations, as the US issued a warning to visitors about the outbreak of the potentially fatal disease.

The Italian health ministry said on 19 April that there had been almost 1,500 registered cases of measles so far this year against some 840 in all of 2016 and some 250 in 2015.

Walter Ricciardi, president of the Higher Health Institute, said: “Italy and Romania have an epidemic at the moment,” adding that he understood why the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an advisory this week.

Ricciardi told Radio 24 that, unlike in Italy, the US had launched a large campaign to convince parents to vaccinate their children.

The Higher Health Institute says only around 85% of two-year-olds are being vaccinated against measles at present, well below the 95% threshold recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The government has accused the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) of causing concern among parents by questioning the safety of some vaccines and by denouncing efforts to make vaccinations mandatory.

M5S founder Beppe Grillo wrote in 2015: ‘Vaccinations have played a vital role in eradicating terrible illnesses … but nonetheless, they bring a risk associated with side-effects.’

Leading M5S politician Andrea Cecconi suggested last month that the jump in measles cases might be part of a natural cycle for the illness, rather than a preventable epidemic.