A major outbreak of measles in Berlin is causing concern to virologists, with one scientist warning that the disease could quickly spread to other large cities.
Need to close all gaps
"It is frightening how long the outbreak has remained at this high level," Hartmut Hengel, a researcher at Berlin's Robert Koch Institute, has told dpa.
Since October, around 850 people – among them adults – have contracted measles in Germany's capital, with a toddler dying of the disease in February. Around 15 new cases of the disease are reported daily, with around a quarter of the patients needing hospitalisation.
Germany has to learn a lesson from the outbreak and close all gaps in immunisation in all population and age groups, Hengel said.
As the main reason for the outbreak, Hengel sees ignorance in the general population about immunisation, which has led an estimated 10 per cent of young adults not being immunized.
Read: Routine immunisation schedule
Many in Germany feel that the possible side effects of immunisation outweigh the benefits.
Hengel, who also leads the Institute of Virology at the Albert Ludwig University in Freiburg, also blames faulty or lax health policies.
"We do not have a tradition in the carrying out of so-called catch-up immunizations, by which we would systematically close gaps in immunisation," he says.
Immunisation is not compulsory in Germany, and making it so would be counterproductive, Hengel says. It would be better to improve awareness about the disease, he says.
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Image: Immunisation from Shutterstock