Eliminating measles – personal stories

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Nastasia has made a spectacular recovery. Just a year ago she was in a coma after contracting measles. The 16-year-old who lives in Valence, in southeastern France, suddenly complained of a sore throat, red spots appeared and she had a high temperature. After one week at 41°C, she was hospitalised, diagnosed with encephalitis.

Nastasia was in a coma for 12 days. It took her four months to recover.

“The first things I remember are the physiotherapy sessions, because I was tetraplegic. After three weeks of physiotherapy, I could walk again, I could even climb the stairs. For one week, I could not speak. My first words were ‘Hello mummy!’”

“I still have urinary problems, because of the paralysis. Also all my muscles have shrunk: I went from 50 to 39 kilos. I often urgently needed to go to the toilet.“

Nastasia is one of many victims of the measles epidemic that has been thriving in Europe over the past few years.

The highly contagious disease can lead to serious complications: pneumonia, otitis (a middle ear infection), diarrhoea and neurological problems.

Over the past three years, in about a quarter of cases, hospitalisation has been necessary.

In 2011, more than 30,000 people contracted measles in Europe. There were as many cases in 2010, that is four times more than in 2009.

Eight patients died of measles complications, six in France, the hardest hit country. Ninety percent of the cases in Europe have been reported in five countries: France, Italy, Romania, Spain and Germany. The vast majority were not vaccinated or not sufficiently so.

Two doses of the vaccine are necessary to ensure optimum protection – the World Health Organisation says that is the only way to reach its target of a measles free Europe by 2015.


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