Macedonia vaccinates soldiers to prevent spread of measles

10/02/2014

Preventive measures are taken to avoid an outbreak similar to that in 2011.

By Miki Trajkovski for Southeast European Times from Skopje -- 10/02/2014

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Macedonian health and military officials acted preventively to stop measles spreading among the armed forces and beyond. [AFP]

Officials in Skopje ordered measles (morbilli) vaccinations for all members of a military barracks there after a confirmed case of the contagious disease.

Health ministry officials, in co-operation with the military, immediately vaccinated more than 1,500 soldiers they suspected were in contact with the infected soldier.

Officials said they recommended the vaccinations because measles, a virus that attacks the respiratory system, can lead to pneumonia in adults that can be fatal. Symptoms can be missed because they are similar to those of seasonal flu.

"As a responsible institution, we reacted immediately following the recommendation of the infectious diseases commission at the health ministry. This should contribute to prevent other soldiers from potentially contracting the disease," Saso Stefanoski, state secretary of the Macedonia defence ministry, told SETimes.

No new cases of infected soldiers or others employed in the military have been detected.

Military officials said the military has experienced flu epidemics in the past.

"We remain vigilant and detected the one infected soldier in time, a good outcome because this is something more serious," Mirce Gjorgjoski, spokesperson for the Macedonian military, told SETimes.

Measles continues to be a problem in Macedonia and other surrounding countries. The World Health Organisation reported major outbreaks of the disease as recently as 2011, with some victims suffering neurological complications. Nearly 300 confirmed cases were reported in Macedonia, according to a medical study released last year, with children and males older than 15 being the most susceptible.

"Everybody joining the Macedonian military is subjected to regular and complete health examinations. Also, every Macedonian soldier participating in missions abroad is vaccinated and immunised, and we never had a problem with this. In 12 years since Macedonia participates in peace-keeping missions, not one soldier has contracted a disease abroad," Gjorgjoski said.

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The soldiers are given appropriate vaccines depending on which country they will be going to, he said.

Through the NATO accession process, the Macedonian military has implemented measures to secure appropriate hygiene and protect soldiers' health. Maintaining the health and hygiene standards is done in co-operation with the healthcare ministry.

"If the healthcare ministry demands vaccination as was now the case, we immediately implement it. They said such a vaccine is not given in the regular immunisation. Once they issued an order, we implemented it because the military is a bigger collective of people [where others can be affected]," Gjorgjoski said.

What can authorities in Macedonia and elsewhere in the Balkans do to ensure the health of military forces? Share your opinion in the comments space.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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