Fatal Inaction: How Measles Made a Comeback

Octavian Coman Timisoara, Bucharest, Charleroi, Rome

Romania’s failure to prevent a deadly measles outbreak is a story of complacency, bungling and discrimination. It is also a cautionary tale for Europe.

Florentina Marcusan studies medical records of her deceased daughter, Karla. Photo: Octavian Coman

Karla was never vaccinated against measles. Her health would not allow it. Born with an interrupted oesophagus, she spent her infancy in and out of hospital, often with pneumonia.

During a routine stay at the Louis Turcanu Emergency Children’s Hospital in the western Romanian city of Timisoara, the toddler was on the same floor as a girl who had measles. Soon, Karla developed a fever.

She was transferred across town to the Victor Babes Clinical Hospital for Infectious Diseases and Pneumology. The place was so full of measles patients that at first Karla had to stay in an adult ward. Her fever worsened, rising as high as 42 degrees Celsius.

During the night of December 18, 2016, she started moaning in a way her mother, Florentina Marcusan, had never heard before. She had a rash on her face and chest.

Shortly after 8 am, as a nurse was giving Karla an injection, the girl’s head started twitching. While the nurse ran to get help, Marcusan held her child.

“When I saw that she wasn’t reacting anymore, I panicked and put her down, because I knew she had died...in my arms,” she recalled.

Read more at Balkan Insight