With over 21,000 measles cases reported across the European Union and 35 deaths reported, the EU death rate for measles during 2017 is 0.16 percent, according to Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty. Yet, is that an accurate picture of the death rate in modern countries with access to safe water and modern healthcare? In all of 2017, over 7,000 measles cases were reported in Romania, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Romania accounts for nearly 85 percent of deaths from the virus in the EU, Financial Times reported. Yet, the country accounted for only 41 percent of all cases.
Last March, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control specified on its report that “cases continue to be reported despite implemented and ongoing response measures at national level through reinforced vaccination activities.” Responding to the outbreak, an intensified vaccination campaign is ongoing. Romania even lowered the age of administering the first vaccine dose from 12 months down to nine months. Still, the immunization rate among children ages 12-23 months falls short of the 95 percent targeted goal, as shown in the World Bank graph below.
Still, that only explains the outbreak. It doesn’t explain the elevated death rate per reported cases. See, Romania showed a 0.3 percent death per reported cases. So, if European epidemiologists removed Romania from the picture, due to the disproportionate death rate, the new EU death rate would be around 0.036 percent, not 0.2 percent.
So, What’s Going On In Romania, And Should That Be Considered?
In Romania, access to potable water and proper sanitation is limited. Water 4 Kids International names measles (along with malaria, measles, cholera, typhoid fever, and bilharzia) as a water-related disease.
Last September, EU’s Cohesion Fund announced plans to improve access to clean water with a grant to Romania totaling 129 million euros for six major projects, according to Romania Insider. The fund will go to projects aimed at improving the drinking water and sanitation crises the country has been up against.
Currently, far too few people in Romania have access to safely managed drinking water services.
Not only is basic sanitation a major issue, but doctors are fleeing Romania, according to Reuters.
“The consequences are dire. Romania is one of the EU states with the fewest doctors. Nearly a third of hospital positions are vacant and the health ministry estimates one in four Romanians has insufficient access to essential healthcare.”
UNICEF reported that in 2009, Romania had the lowest number of doctors per 100,000 people in the entire EU. Plus, Romania had the second lowest number of nurses per 100,000 people. Only Greece had fewer nurses per capita.
UNICEF also reported that Romania’s breastfeeding rate is practically three times lower than the rest of the European Union’s. A study in the Lancet showed significantly higher mortality rates among children under two years of age among weaned children who contracted measles than among breastfed children who contracted measles.
With lower breastfeeding rates, inadequate access to healthcare and inadequate supplies of safe drinking water, is it any wonder the Romanian death rate for measles per measles cases in the country is disproportionately higher than it is in other countries in the European Union?