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Global measles death rate falls to record low

December 27, 2017

AGE – Wednesday, 27 Dec 2017 – Page 12

NEW YORK: For the first time in history, annual deaths around the globe from measles have fallen below 100,000 – from 2.6 million a year in the 1980s – according to the World Health Organisation.

The decline – a public health triumph , as measles has long been a leading killer of malnourished children – was accomplished by widespread donor-supported vaccination that began in the early 2000s.

The estimated number of deaths fell to 89,780 in 2016, the latest WHO figures say. Measles vaccines were invented in the 1960s. Since 2000, 5.5 billion doses have been given out, according to Gavi, the Geneva-based organisation through which most donors support the vaccination effort.

Many developing countries that first rolled out vaccines in mass campaigns with donor help are now buying their own for routine children’s immunisation.

‘‘ Sadly, this excellent progress threatens to be undermined by low coverage, not only in many developing countries, but also in some wealthy ones,’’ Dr Seth Berkley, Gavi’s chief executive officer , said in his year-end letter.

Because measles is so contagious – one child can infect a dozen others at school even before the telltale rash appears – outbreaks in any community can be prevented only by pushing vaccination rates to 95 per cent.

Outbreaks occur in many countries . More than 30 children died of measles in Romania this year, and in the past two months, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has issued Watch Level 1 travel alerts regarding outbreaks in England, Greece, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Romania, Italy, Indonesia and Ukraine.

In wealthy countries, deaths from measles are rare – only about one case in 5000 is fatal. More common complications include encephalitis and pneumonia.

New York Times

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