Measles outbreak worries Turkey12th May 2010
The Turkish ministry of health is worried that a measles outbreak among Bulgaria's Roma population could have unforeseen consequences for its own citizens.
As a result, Turkish border officials are tightening their control of the country's northern border with Bulgaria.
The Bulgarian health ministry said that travellers with measles symptoms, such as fever, rash and coughing, would be provisionally banned from entry into Turkey.
The measles epidemic, which broke out just over a year ago, has only recently become a problem.
The epidemic was originally confined to Bulgarian Roma people, but it has since infected at least 18,000 people, killing 20.
Mira Kozhuharova, an epidemiologist, said that Roma children who spread the disease lacked proper vaccinations, even though the immunisation programme was obligatory in Bulgaria.
Measles, against which many people in Europe have been immunised, is a highly infectious respiratory disease that is spread by a virus.
In severe cases, around 1%, the virus can cause brain damage, although mostly the symptoms manifest as fever, cough, runny nose, red eyes, and a rash.
Measles has accounted for around 200 million deaths globally in the past 150 years. Most people who are exposed to the virus eventually become ill.
The virus has decimated human populations at various times in history. It was originally brought to Europe by the Romans, where it wiped out towns and villages in Europe who had no immunity.
Indigenous American people suffered the same fate hundreds of years later, when colonists brought the virus with them to North and South America.
Most countries have a compulsory immunisation programme for measles.
Bulgaria has seen a measles epidemic already in recent years, when an outbreak affected around 22,000 people in 1992.
Thousands of cases are still reported annually in Turkey, mostly in children, and would be preventable if officials imposed compulsory immunisation on the population.
The World Health Organisation says that measles is a leading cause of preventable childhood deaths worldwide.
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