Measles alarm in Italy

US places Italy on list of travel risk for measles.

Italy has been identified as a country posing a measles threat for US visitors by the Centre for Disease Control of the US department of health, which has warned American tourists to ensure they have been vaccinated against measles as well as advising that they wash their hands regularly while in Italy.

The move by Washington was followed with a warning from the president of the Istituto Superiore di Sanità (ISS), Walter Ricciardi, who told Radio 24 that Italy is in the midst of a measles "epidemic".

Ricciardi cited almost 1,473 measles cases in Italy between 1 January and 9 April this year, compared to less than 800 recorded in the same period in 2016, according to a report in Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Sera.

This year's measles cases have been registered in seven Italian regions: Piemonte, Lazio, Lombardia, Tuscany, Abruzzo, Veneto and Sicily. More than half of cases affected people in the 15-39 age group while 26 per cent of cases affected children aged 0-14, with 84 cases recorded in infants aged under one year.

Italy's health ministry has blamed the surge in measles primarily on parents who refuse to vaccinate their children "despite well-established scientific evidence" and notwithstanding concerted efforts by some regional health authorities to persuade families of the vaccines' benefits.

The ISS stated that only around 85 per cent of Italian toddlers are being vaccinated against measles currently, below the 95 per cent threshold recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

As of earlier this year, Rome public health offices providing vaccines operate on an appointment basis only.

Photograph Corriere della Sera