The past year reportedly saw over 17,000 cases of measles in 30 European countries as monitored by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.

Forty cases resulted in death. On Friday, the Greek Center for Disease Control and Prevention counted 166 cases reported in the country with a steady increase.

While the highest concentration of the virus has been reported in Romania, Greece is still very high on the list as Professor Takis Panagiotopoulos, advisor of the Hellenic Centre for Disease Control and Prevention told the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA), early last week.

Panagiotopoulos who is a specialist in child health at the National Centre for Public Health, explained that 90 of the first 100 recorded cases of the disease affected Greek nationals and not migrants entering the country, highlighting the dangers of the anti-immunisation movement.

Following the outbreak health authorities in Greece issued a public appeal to participate in vaccination and booster shot programs as the highly contagious disease could potentially have serious complications.

The advice was not limited to children but was extended to any adult born after 1970, who had not had the measles and who might need a booster shot.

The most effective protection against it is the MMR vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella.

“Measles is a potentially serious disease. The HCDCP is systematically following the course of the epidemiological situation in Greece and worldwide, gauging the facts and may possibly, depending on how things develop, recommend additional measures,” Panagiotopoulos stressed.

“We need to debunk groundless rumours about the supposed risks of vaccines, and inform parents and the public, about the importance and safety of immunisation programmes.”

High fever is the first sign of measles and it usually begins about 10 to 12 days after exposure to the virus, lasting up to seven days.

Symptoms include a runny nose, a cough, red and watery eyes, and small white spots inside the cheeks in the beginning, then a rash erupts, usually on the face and upper neck spreading onto the hands and feet for a week. Measles can also cause blindness, encephalitis (an infection that causes brain swelling), severe diarrhoea and related dehydration, ear infections, or severe respiratory infections such as pneumonia.

Complications are more common in children under the age of 5, or adults over the age of 20.