German toddler dies in measles outbreak

File image. Source: AAP

An 18-month-old boy has died in a measles outbreak in Berlin, sparking a debate over compulsory vaccinations.

A toddler suffering from measles has died in the German capital amid the country's worst outbreak in years.

The 18-month-old boy, who was not vaccinated against measles, died on February 18. This is the first known fatality among more than 570 recorded measles cases since October in the German capital, a Berlin health department official said.

The resurgence of the preventable disease in Germany, as well as in parts of the United States, coincides with a movement among some parents to refuse to vaccinate their children.

Health Minister Hermann Groehe said "the irrational fear-mongering of some vaccination-foes is irresponsible".

"Those who refuse to vaccinate their children endanger not only them but others, threatening serious health problems."

German national health officials said Monday there were no current plans to make measles vaccinations mandatory.

But they said the government would ensure that parents receive advice on the need for immunisations when children start early child care.

Vaccination certificates would also be checked during regular doctors visits, a health ministry spokeswoman said.

She added that "if that doesn't help, other steps will have to be considered".

The centre for diseases control and prevention, the Robert Koch Institute, said the Berlin wave of infections had "initially affected primarily asylum seekers, mostly from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia".

"But now cases of the disease are occurring primarily amid the general population of Berlin," it said in a statement.

Measles causes fever and rash and in severe cases can lead to pneumonia or brain swelling, sometimes fatal. The disease is highly contagious because it is transmitted through the air.

Many people who do not vaccinate their children say they fear a triple vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella is responsible for increasing cases of autism - a theory repeatedly disproved by various studies.

Source AAP

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