Measles global deaths decline by 78%, WHO estimates

Child being given a measles vaccine in India Vaccinating children has helped to reduce deaths from measles worldwide

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Global deaths from measles dropped 78% between 2000 and 2012, the World Health Organization estimates.

New figures from the WHO suggest that around 13.8 million deaths were prevented during this time and reported cases declined by 77%.

Good routine immunisation levels and campaigns to vaccinate children are thought to be behind the figures.

But the WHO says measles is still a global threat and some populations remain unprotected.

The mortality estimates from the WHO show that annual measles deaths decreased from more than 562,000 in 2000 to 122,000 in 2012.

Reported cases of measles worldwide declined from 853,480 to 226,722 over the same time.

Start Quote

There is much more work to be done as more than 330 deaths (mainly among children) still occur daily from measles ”

End Quote Karen Mah The Measles and Rubella Initiative

Currently, 84% of the world's infants receive the first dose of measles vaccine before their first birthday, according to the WHO.

It says that 145 countries have also introduced a routine second dose of measles vaccine to ensure immunity and prevent outbreaks.

Mass campaigns against measles in 2012 resulted in a further 145 million children being vaccinated against the disease, taking the total number of vaccinated children to more than one billion since 2000.

Threat continues

However, there are still concerns that despite this good news, measles remains a worldwide threat.

The regions of Africa, south-east Asia and Europe all experienced large outbreaks in 2012, and the Americas region had to deal with many imported measles cases.

The Democratic Republic of Congo saw the largest measles outbreak of 2012, with 72,029 reported cases. There were around 18,000 cases in India and 12,000 in Ukraine, while the UK experienced just over 2,000 measles cases.

The WHO says the Africa, Eastern Mediterranean and European regions are not likely to meet their measles elimination targets on time.

Without improved immunisation coverage, outbreaks will continue to occur, it says.

Karen Mah, a spokeswoman for The Measles and Rubella Initiative, a global partnership led by the WHO and UNICEF among others, said there were still too many children dying.

"While estimated measles deaths have dropped significantly since 2000, there is much more work to be done as more than 330 deaths (mainly among children) still occur daily from measles.

"We need to move beyond an 84% global routine immunisation coverage. It's also vital that parents are fully aware of the benefits of immunisation and the risks associated with not vaccinating children," she added.

The Measles and Rubella Initiative wants to reduce measles deaths by 95% by 2015 and get rid of measles and rubella in at least five regions of the world by 2020.

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