October 21, 2018 – A raging measles outbreak in Europe may be a warning sign of what could occur in the U.S. if something doesn’t change soon, experts say.
So far this year, there have been 41,000 cases in Europe and 40 deaths, according to the World Health Organization. The European experience may offer a window on how quickly things can go awry when parents choose not to vaccinate their children, doctors caution.
Because measles is relatively rare in the U.S., many Americans have no idea of the disease’s frightening impact and its stunning contagiousness.
Many forget that measles isn’t just a childhood disease.
Silvia Rosetti, who lives in Rome, still has nightmares about contracting measles when she was 32 weeks pregnant in 2017. When Rosetti, now 41, was a child, measles vaccines were not required and she didn’t think about the risk of exposure when she first became pregnant. She was healthy and ecstatic at the thought of having her first child. But then she caught measles and the symptoms came on in a rush: fever, cough and congestion so bad she could barely breathe.
“The situation got worse and worse so they decided to do a C-section,” Rosetti said. “I went into quarantine for five days. I couldn’t see my baby.” Her newborn son, Nathan, was also quarantined until doctors determined he was not infected. Rosetti developed pneumonia as a complication of her measles and was so weak she couldn’t stand up.
“And I had a rash even in my eyes, so I couldn’t see anything,” Rosetti told NBC News.
Rosetti eventually recovered. Her baby, Nathan is now a year old and has gotten all his vaccinations.
“If you do the vaccination, you love yourself, you love your sons, and you love everybody,” she said. “You protect everybody. It’s not just for myself or for my son.”
Rosetti is one of the more than 2,000 people in Italy who have been diagnosed with measles already this year.
“We have a very serious situation,” said Dr. Alberto Villani, pediatric infectious disease doctor at Bambino Gesù Pediatric Hospital and the president of the Italian Pediatric Society. “People are dying from measles. This was unbelievable five or 10 years ago.”
Even in England, which had been declared free of measles by the World Health Organization a year ago, cases are surging.