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Friday's papers: Measles case, Tallinn rail tunnel and sauna benefits

A measles case involving an unvaccinated child, news on the rail link to Tallinn and the health benefits of sauna.

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Image: Petri Jauhiainen / Yle

A pre-school aged child in Ostrobothnia has contracted measles and has thereby exposed about a hundred other people to the highly contagious disease, reports daily Helsingin Sanomat.

Based on information from the National Institute of Health and Welfare (THL), people exposed in the municipality of Luoto include the child’s family and relatives. In addition, the unvaccinated pre-schooler had spent time in daycare, the emergency unit of the Kokkola hospital and a religious gathering, HS writes.

According to Mia Kontio from the THL, it is difficult to estimate the exact number of people exposed because the size of the religious event, for example, is not known.

"However, new infections are possible, because the child has been in the same space with other unvaccinated people,” Kontio said.

The child had recently traveled abroad and likely contracted the disease occurred there, HS speculates.

Annika Saarikko, Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services, urged mothers and fathers to trust medical experts and Finland’s vaccination programme.

“Parents refusing to immunise their children make a choice not only for their child, but also for those who cannot get the vaccine due to health reasons, for example," Saarikko said. She said she considers the case in Luoto particularly serious, because the region suffers from a lower-than-average vaccination coverage.

“To minimise the risk of a disease spreading, the vaccination coverage needs to be at about 95 percent. This area does not benefit from that.”

The THL said it will continue to map out those persons possibly exposed to measles in the Luoto area, HS writes.

In the first half of this year, 41,000 people in Europe contracted measles and 37 of them died.

Tunnel to Estonia

Meanwhile, the online paper Uusi Suomi writes that a plan to build a tunnel from Helsinki to Tallinn is progressing, and more information about the project's 15-billion-euro funding would be disclosed soon.

The massive project to dig a 100-km tunnel under the Gulf of Finland is headed by Peter Vesterbacka, the former marketing boss of game firm Rovio, and investor Kustaa Valtonen.

"We have toured Asian cities since the summer, and some places in Europe too. The tunnel will be financed with a mix of Chinese and European money," Valtonen, the founder of Finest Bay Area Development, said.

According to the Valtonen, the large-scale undertaking could have an effect on Finland’s economic conjuncture.

"This is the largest project in Finland since the mid-1800s when the canals were constructed. And that building work made up about a half of Finland’s GDP. The tunnel could have a significant impact too."

(In the 19th century, a number of waterways were built in Finland to enable the transportation of wood and minerals to the coast.)

The rail project includes four stations: one in Tallinn, one on an artificial island to be built just off the coast of Helsinki, one at Keilalahti-Otaniemi in eastern Espoo, and one at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport.

The 20-minute rail link between the two capitals is expected to be completed by the end of 2024, Uusi Suomi writes.

Vesterbacka previously said that with ticket prices averaging 50 euros, the tunnel would pay for itself within 37 years.

Sauna benefits

A new study indicates that regular visits to the sauna lower the risk of heart and coronary disease, writes Tampere-based daily Aamulehti . Research by the Universities of Jyväskylä and Eastern Finland shows that men and women over 50 years of age who took a sauna between four and seven times a week suffered 2.7 deaths for each 1,000 years (calculated by adding together the number of years the participants were included in the study).

In contrast, those who bathed in the sauna just once a week, experienced 10.1 deaths per thousands years. According to Professor Jari Laukkanen from the University of Eastern Finland, there are multiple possible reasons for the health benefits of sauna.

"Taking a sauna raises the heart rate similarly to mild or moderate exercise. It has also been linked to lower blood pressure," Laukkanen said.

"This is the first study to show that older women benefit from the sauna too, not just men," he added.

Approximately 1,700 persons in the Kuopio area took part in the research and their average age at the start of the study was 63 years, Aamulehti writes.

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