Measles Epidemic Hits Russian Baptists

TULA/MOSCOW, January 23 (RIA Novosti) – At least 133 people in southern Russia, all unvaccinated Baptist Evangelists, have contracted measles during the past month, regional authorities said Tuesday.

The majority of the patients are children, but at least 10 are adults, the Kursk Region branch of the Federal Consumer Rights Protection Agency said. No fatalities have been reported.

The epidemic broke out in late December in the family of a pastor from the International Union of Churches of Evangelical Christian-Baptists in the Kursk Region, authorities said earlier.

The region’s Baptist community denied any religious motives behind their mistrust of the vaccination, saying they considered it dangerous on medical grounds.

They also complained in an open letter published by local news website that Baptists are being singled out for persecution by other locals, who accuse them of spreading the disease.

About 1,350 residents of Zheleznogorsk, a city of 96,000 that is the epicenter of the epidemic, have been given emergency vaccinations in the last few weeks, authorities said.

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 of the illness have been reported since then.

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