MOSCOW, February 10 (RIA Novosti) – A total of 207 people have now been hit by a measles epidemic that started among unvaccinated Russian Baptists, medical authorities said Monday.
No fatalities have been reported so far in the southern Kursk region where the epidemic has broken out, according to the Federal Consumer Protection Service’s regional branch.
The number of infections stood at 133 in late January, when the outbreak of the near-eliminated disease first hit the national headlines.
Most of the victims, including recent ones, belong to the International Union of Churches of Evangelical Christian-Baptists, local authorities said. The first to be infected were reportedly the family of a local Baptist pastor.
Kursk Region Baptists have complained about pressure from local residents outside the religion, who have allegedly accused them of spreading the disease and demanded that they leave.
Members of the Baptist community have also repeatedly denied that there are religious reasons for their refusal to allow anti-measles vaccination. Instead, they have said they consider it dangerous on medical grounds.
Measles, a respiratory viral disease, claimed 158,000 deaths around the world in 2011, most of them children, according to the World Health Organization.
Russia’s then-top public health official, Gennady Onishchenko, said in 2008 that the country had eliminated measles, though isolated cases have been reported since then.