MONDAY, April 23 (HealthDay News) -- Deaths from measles fell 74
percent worldwide between 2000 and 2010, but progress is still
short of the World Health Organization's target, health officials
"This is one of the most remarkable victories in the history of public health," said Anthony Lake, executive director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), during a morning press briefing, while calling for increased vaccination efforts.
The WHO, which aimed to cut measles deaths by 90 percent between
2000 and 2010, said India -- with the world's highest rate of
measles deaths -- and Africa have offset the considerable gains
In the United States, which since 2008 has had no reported
measles deaths, 222 cases of measles were reported in 2011 -- the
most in 15 years. Nearly all stemmed from foreign travel, and a
majority of those who developed the disease had not been
vaccinated, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
reported last week.
Vaccination is the only way to prevent measles, experts say.
Mass vaccination programs around the globe "were the main driver
behind the huge fall in mortality," the researchers said, noting
more than 1 billion doses of measles vaccine were dispensed over
the past decade.
But still more people need vaccination, health experts say.
"The bad news is that every day measles still claims 382 lives worldwide -- a vast majority of them children under 5 -- and every one of them could have been saved by two doses of 22-cent vaccine," Lake said. The vaccine was introduced in 1963.
The report was published in the April 23 online issue of the
For the study, Peter Strebel, from the WHO's department of
immunization, vaccines and biologicals, and colleagues developed a
new statistical model to assess measles around the world.
The researchers found measles deaths fell from more than 535,000
in 2000 to around 139,000 in 2010. Almost half of those deaths (47
percent) occurred in India, and more than one-third (36 percent) in
Other areas in southeast Asia accounted for 8 percent of deaths;
the eastern Mediterranean region, 7 percent; the western Pacific
region, 2 percent; and the Americas and Europe less than 1 percent
It's believed that the high death rates in India and Africa are
due to lower vaccination rates.
India's vaccination rate is about 74 percent, and Africa's is 76
percent. For the rest of Southeast Asia the vaccination rate is 79
percent, in the Eastern Mediterranean it's 85 percent and in the
Americas it's 93 percent. Europe has a 95 percent vaccination rate
and the Western Pacific has a 97 percent rate, the researchers
All regions except Southeast Asia plan to eradicate measles by
2020 or sooner, they added.
"Despite rapid progress in measles control from 2000 to 2007, delayed implementation of accelerated disease control in India and continued outbreaks in Africa stalled momentum toward the 2010 global measles mortality reduction goal," the researchers concluded.
"Intensified control measures and renewed political and financial commitment are needed to achieve mortality reduction targets and lay the foundation for future global eradication of measles," they added.
"This is a highly preventable illness," said Dr. Walter Orenstein, a professor of medicine and pediatrics and director of the Emory Vaccine Center at Emory University in Atlanta.
Orenstein, co-author of an accompanying journal editorial, said
financially supporting immunization efforts around the world not
only saves lives, but also helps prevent measles from entering the
"In 2000, the U.S. declared that measles was no longer an indigenous disease," he said. "So all of our cases of measles are now due to importations with limited spread, which is why we need to insure our children are vaccinated."
"Measles is receding globally because of vaccination, but the problem that remains is twofold," said Dr. Marc Siegel, an associate professor of medicine at New York University in New York City.
That problem involves parents who resist vaccination. A residual
fear that the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine causes autism has taken
a decade to overcome following the publication in Britain of a
later-discredited study linking the two, Siegel said. In addition,
some people in the United States choose not to have their children
vaccinated for religious reasons, he said.
The main symptom of measles is an itchy skin rash. A fever and
cough can follow.
For more information on measles, visit the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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