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Infectious disease Why some Swiss people still get measles

Measles, a potentially deadly virus, is still breaking out in Switzerland, despite the availability of vaccinations. 

At the beginning of February, 60 children who had not been vaccinated were sent home after measles erupted in the Steiner School in the town of Biel. Families with an anthroposophical lifestyle, as advocated by Rudolf Steiner, are often restrictive with vaccinations because of the purported benefits of getting a disease naturally. Many others fear the side effects of vaccines more than the underlying diseases that they protect against. Daniel Koch, head of the infectious diseases department at the Swiss Federal Health Officeexternal link (BAG) assures the public that bad reactions are rare and that the effects of measles are much worse. 

Preventable disease

Measles spreads easily through the coughs and sneezes of infected people and can lead to diarrhoea, ear infections, pneumonia, blindness, inflammation of the brain and even death. It can strike people of all ages. According to figures from the World Health Organisationexternal link, in 2017 there were 110 000 measles deaths globally, mostly among children under the age of five. Switzerland supports the WHO's goal of eliminating the disease.

+ Read more about measles in Switzerland here

In 2018 there were 48 measles cases in Switzerlandexternal link, but in an epidemic year figures can rise to well over 1000 sufferers (1112 in 2009). To eradicate it, the WHO advocates a vaccination coverage of 95% of the population. Swiss coverage is below this at 94%. 

There are large differences between Swiss cantons, with more urban cantons reaching a near 100% level, while rural areas score much lower, with the lowest vaccination rate in the tiny canton of Appenzell Inner Rhodes at 82%. (SRF/swissinfo.ch) 

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