Measles vaccination plans intensify in Turkey after 3,000 cases

Measles vaccination plans intensify in Turkey after 3,000 cases

ANKARA - Anatolia News Agency
Measles vaccination plans intensify in Turkey after 3,000 cases

One third of the measles cases are seen in children younger than one-year-old. The ministry lowers the vaccination age to nine-month babies. DHA photo

The Health Ministry has intensified its measles vaccination efforts after the cases increased to 3,000 between 2012 and 2013, due to a virus that entered the country from Romania.

Almost 3,000 measles cases were seen in several cities between 2012 and 2013, due to a virus which came from abroad, said an official from the ministry, adding that these cases had decreased over the past few weeks.

In 2011, only 110 measles cases were seen across Turkey, but this number increased since May 2012 due to a virus which was first carried to Istanbul by a music group who came from Romania, according to the Public Health Agency of Turkey deputy head Mehmet Ali Torunoğlu. Some of these cases were treated in intensive care units but there were no casualties, he added.

“The cases were first seen in Istanbul and then spread to other cities,” said Torunoğlu, adding that the majority of cases were observed in big cities such as Ankara, Gaziantep, Şanlıurfa and Adana.

Torunoğlu said that the cases had decreased in the past weeks. “We used to have around 200 cases in a week. But for the past four weeks, our cases decreased to 100 to 200 a week. We are expecting fewer cases in the coming weeks as the incidences decrease during summertime,” he said.

One third of these cases were seen in children younger than one-year-old. Also, one third of these cases were among those above the age of 20, he added. Those between one and 19 years of age catching the disease had either not been vaccinated or could not develop immunity despite being vaccinated, Torunoğlu added.

“We are working on the vaccination to prevent the spread of this disease. It is usually seen in those of a younger age. We decreased the age of vaccination to nine-month babies on the decision of the Science Council. We repeat the vaccine when they turn one,” said Torunoğlu yesterday.

“Also, the family doctors invite those between 1 and 4 years of age who have not completed their vaccinations. We extraordinarily vaccinated the pre-school children this year. We won’t vaccinate pre-school children next year,” he added.

‘No epidemic, controlled increase’

Despite the increase in cases last year, the ministry claims that there is no epidemic, but rather a controlled increase in the number of cases.

“These cases are still widely seen in Europe. These may enter Turkey due to the human traffic and may spread to Turkey. The Science Council said that this was not an epidemic, but a controlled increase in cases,” said Torunoğlu.

He said that one dose of the vaccination could not protect 100 percent, and those with only one does were still at risk if they encountered the virus.