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Berlin measles epidemic reaches new high

March 6, 2015

A measles outbreak in Berlin continues to see a rise in new cases. Calls for compulsory vaccination are becoming ever louder, with a strong majority of Germans supporting a new law in favor of vaccination.

A thin-section transmission electron micrograph (TEM) of a single virus particle, or "virion", of the measles virus. Photo: Courtesy of C. S. Goldsmith; William Bellini, Ph.D./CDC/dpa")
Image: Courtesy of C. S. Goldsmith; William Bellini, Ph.D./CDC/dpa/Montage: DW

Berlin saw 111 new cases of measles this week, health officials said on Friday, making it the worst for new infections since the current outbreak began in October.

A spokeswoman for the State Office of Health and Social Affairs said 724 people had sickened since the start of the epidemic, an overwhelming majority of whom had not been vaccinated.

Around a quarter of the infected patients have required hospital treatment. Seventy babies under the age of one have also caught the illness.

Babies have no immunity against the disease unless their mothers have been vaccinated before becoming pregnant, and can only legally be vaccinated themselves from the age of nine months.

Last month, an unvaccinated toddler in Berlin died of the illness.

Wide support for compulsory vaccination

The outbreak has provoked new calls for vaccination against measles and other preventable diseases to be made compulsory in Germany.

According to a survey commissioned this week by public service broadcaster ARD, 72 percent of Germans are in favor of compulsory vaccination.

The official German pediatric association, the BVKJ, on Friday reiterated its demand for parents to be required by law to have their children vaccinated.

Legislators must "finally do more for vaccination," BVKJ President Wolfram Hartmann said on Friday, adding that it was unacceptable for people to die because parents were not giving their children protection from infection.

He pointed out that vaccination was not only there to protect the person being inoculated, but also children who could not be vaccinated for medical reasons, such as young babies and children with congenital or acquired immune deficiencies.

The measles virus is highly contagious and is passed on by droplet infection. Children under six and adults over 20 are particularly at risk.

tj/gsw (epd, dpa)