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Measles deaths worldwide have dropped 78% since 2000

December 3, 2009 |  4:55 pm

As the result of a vigorous vaccination campaign in which more than 700 million children have been immunized against the measles, the number of deaths worldwide fell 78% from 2000 to 2008, the consortium of organizations known as the Measles Initiative announced today. About 733,000 children died in 2000, compared with 164,000 in 2008, the group said.

All regions of the world except Southeast Asia have met their goal of a 90% reduction in deaths by 2010 two years early. The vaccinations have prevented about 4.3 million deaths from the disease. In Southeast Asia -- primarily India, Indonesia and Bangladesh -- measles deaths declined only 46%, largely because of delays in implementing vaccination campaigns in India. Today, 3 in 4 children who die from measles are in India, said Ann M. Veneman, executive director of UNICEF, a member of the initiative, which also includes the American Red Cross, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United Nations Foundation and the World Health Organization. India plans to start a vaccination program in about half its states next year.

The new data were published today in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Measles is highly contagious, with symptoms that include a rash, high fever, cough, a runny nose and watery eyes. In developed countries, about 1% of infected children die, but in developing countries, with their high rate of malnourishment and other afflictions, as much as 15% die. The Measles Initiative helps in areas with poor vaccination coverage by providing shots to children 9 months to 15 years old. Two doses of the vaccine, which costs about a dollar, are recommended, but one dose will protect most children.

Officials of the initiative said the group may have a funding shortfall of $59 million next year. If funds are not obtained, the progress that has been made so far could be reversed quickly and an additional 1.7 million deaths could occur from 2010 to 2013.

-- Thomas H. Maugh II

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