April 23rd-30th is European Immunization Week. As the WHO website points out, thirty countries in WHO’s European Region have reported a marked increase in measles cases. There have been 6,500 cases so far this year, with France accounting for almost 5,000 of these. Measles is, as I will never tire of telling people, a disease that should be taken very seriously indeed. The complications of measles include diarrhoea, convulsion, encephalitis, and death. (Seriously France, faites-vous vacciner.)
Previous outbreaks in Europe include Italy, 2002: 3 deaths, 594 hospitalizations; Germany, 2006: 160 children hospitalized, 3 with brain inflammation; and Ireland, 2000: 2 children dead. 99% of people are protected from measles, mumps, and rubella after two doses of the vaccine. 863 people in England and Wales died from measles in the ten years prior to the introduction of the single measles vaccine. In the ten years that followed, even with relatively low uptake of the vaccine, there were only 292 deaths from the disease: hundreds of lives were saved.
Behind each of these numbers is a story. A story about someone who came to harm because they were exposed to a preventable disease. They say a picture paints a thousand words, so here are some pictures of children with measles:
(Click on the thumbnail for full size)
That’s measles. There are other serious vaccine-preventable diseases that people need to consider. The Vaccination Information website has a Meningococcus Disease Photos page and a Tetanus Photos page. [Note: these pages each carry a warning that “Some of these photos are quite graphic.”] The main page of this site (also available in Spanish) has links to different vaccine-preventable diseases, with photographs, videos, and other information. They also link to this website, which has “Unprotected People Reports”, real-life accounts of people who have suffered or died from vaccine-preventable diseases.
The 13-year-old boy who became the first person in Britain for 14 years to die from acute measles infection; the 18 day old baby who died from whooping cough; the college student who died within a day of falling ill with meningococcal meningitis.
These are the people behind the numbers. The people who ended up seriously ill in hospital, or dead, because of a preventable disease.
For more on EIW, see here and here. Vaccination Week in the Americas (VWA); Vaccination Week in the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region; African Vaccination Week.
Translations from Babelfish and Google Translate. Thanks to Maria Wolters, Rene Najera, Nullfidian, and Miraclewoman for suggestions and corrections. Vakciniĝu. Vaksinér deg! Vaccinera dig! Vaccinér dig!