How big a problem is measles? What is being done to prevent it?
Q: How big a problem is measles? What is being done to prevent it?
A: Measles is a highly infectious disease. In developing countries, 1-5% of children with measles die from complications of the disease. This death rate may be as high as 25% among people who are displaced, malnourished and have poor access to health care. The disease can also lead to severe health complications, including pneumonia, encephalitis, severe diarrhoea and blindness.
However there is great reason for optimism, as recent improved immunization efforts have resulted in a 74 per cent reduction in measles deaths globally, from 757 000 in 2000 to an estimated 197 000 in 2007. The largest regional percent reduction occurred in the Eastern Mediterranean (90%) and African (89%) regions, accounting for 16% and 63% of the global reduction in measles mortality, respectively. This public health achievement helped to prevent an estimated 3.6 million measles deaths during the same period.
WHO and UNICEF developed a strategy to reduce measles mortality. It has four objectives:
- provide every child with one dose of measles vaccine at nine months of age or shortly thereafter via routine health services;
- give all children a second opportunity for measles immunization, generally through mass vaccination campaigns;
- establish effective surveillance for measles; and
- enhance care for those with measles including the provision of vitamin A supplementation.
Using this strategy, measles has been eliminated from the WHO Region of the Americas. Three other WHO regions (European, Western Pacific and Eastern Mediterranean) have also set regional measles elimination goals.