December 5, 2008

Measles Deaths Have Plummeted Globally

Measles deaths have fallen to 74 percent worldwide in the past 10 years thanks to an intensive attempt to vaccinate children in Africa and other regions, health officials announced Thursday.

Measles deaths globally declined from a projected 750,000 in 2000, the year prior to the vaccination efforts starting, to 197,000 in 2007, the U.N. World Health Organization and other partners announced.

In Africa, where the measles are devastating, deaths decreased by a staggering 89 percent, from the expected 395,000 in 2000 to 45,000 last year, officials added.

Approximately 90 percent of the global measles deaths killed children under age 5, officials stated.

About 600 million children in over 60 countries have been given the measles vaccination since 2001 under the program instigated by the

American Red Cross, the U.S. government's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United Nations Foundation, UNICEF and the WHO, officials noted.

The vaccination labors, which cost about $600 million, preserved 3.6 million lives, officials said.

"We're incredibly encouraged by this level of success. We know what countries can achieve. But as deaths decrease, people often tend to move on to other things thinking the problem is solved, which it is not," United Nations Foundation children's health official Andrea Gay said.

Measles, an incredibly infectious viral disease that is simply transmitted from person to person in the course of coughing and sneezing, has destroyed millions of lives since antiquity. It remains a primary cause of death in young children, specifically in impoverished nations, regardless of the accessibility of the secure and effective vaccine released in 1963.

Measles deaths are normally caused from complications instead of the respiratory disease itself. Pneumonia is the most common form of death connected with the disease. Other difficulties include brutal diarrhea, ear infections and encephalitis.

A global goal put in place by the WHO is a 90 percent drop in worldwide measles fatalities by 2010.

Globally, the amount of reported measles cases decreased from 852,937 in 2000 to 279,006 in 2007: a 67 percent decrease.

The majority of measles fatalities no longer reside in Africa due to the strenuous vaccination labors, moving instead to an area in Asia including India, officials noted.

They stated that 8.5 million children in India did not get their first measles vaccine by on first birthday.

The majority of the 23.3 million infants globally who did not receive the first dose last year resided in India and seven other areas: Nigeria, China, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Bangladesh, the officials said.

In urbanized countries, four decades of vaccination have seen measles levels fall to tremendously low levels. In the United States alone, measles is no longer considered an endemic, with continuing transmission of the virus declared eliminated in 2000.


On The Net:

U.N. World Health Organization

American Red Cross

United Nations Foundation