WHO Announces Steep Decline In Measles -Related Deaths

by Medindia Content Team on  November 30, 2007 at 4:59 PM General Health News   - G J E 4
Deaths from measles fell by 91 percent in Africa over the past six years, the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced Thursday.

But the WHO warned that figures were still far too high in South Asia, singling out India and Pakistan for criticism.
WHO Announces Steep Decline In Measles -Related Deaths
WHO Announces Steep Decline In Measles -Related Deaths

Measles deaths between 2000 and 2006 in Africa dropped from 396,000 to just 36,000, contributing to a worldwide decline in measles deaths of 68 percent, according to the Geneva-based health organisation.

"This is a major victory, but our job is by no means done," Peter Strebel, measles officer for the WHO said.

"We need to expand the successful vaccination strategy used primarily in Africa to South Asia," he added.

"Large countries with high numbers of measles deaths, such as India and Pakistan, need to fully implement the proven control strategy," the WHO warned in a statement accompanying the report.

The WHO-led vaccination campaign is thought to have saved around 7.5 million lives. However, measles still kills nearly 600 children under five every day around the world.

Since 2000 nearly half a million children have been vaccinated in the 46 countries the most affected by measles, with "major gains" seen in Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola and Ethiopia, Strebel said.

But the vaccination campaign has been less well-applied in South Asia, where more than half of new-born babies are never vaccinated.

South Asian measles deaths last year stood at 178,000 -- more than five times the African figure.

The WHO's objective is to reduce measles' deaths by 2010 by 90 percent from the year 2000. Doing that will require an additional 200 million dollars (135 million euros), the WHO reckons.

Last year 80 percent of the world's infants had been vaccinated, compared with 72 percent in 2000.

To see the highly contagious virus eradicated, at least 93-95 percent of the population must be vaccinated -- which will require greater assistance from some countries' health services, emphasised Strebel.

"We know that the virus could be eradicated. It is biologically possible," he added, pointing out that measles transmission had completely disappeared on the American continent since 2002.

But one of the problems in entirely eradicating the virus, Strebel added, was that the major Western countries no longer considered it a "major threat" in terms of public health. Measles is more often fatal in poor countries because it attacks malnourished children.

"The commitment is not really there," he said.

Source: AFP

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