As per a recent WHO study, the death rates from measles went down by 74 percent between 2000 and 2010, below the targeted 90%, due to deaths in India and Africa where the virus kills thousands a year. Regular measles outbreaks in Africa and very slow implementation of disease control in India were responsible for missing the target. If the world is to succeed in wiping out the highly contagious disease, vaccination needs to cover the key regions, the researchers said. “Intensified control measures and renewed political and financial commitment are needed to … lay the foundation for future global eradication of measles,” the researchers wrote in the study in The Lancet medical journal.
Measles is a viral disease and transmitted when an infected person breaths, coughs or sneezes. There is no specific treatment for it and a person’s natural immunity allows them to recover in 2-3 weeks. It can lead to severe complications in particulary indigent demographics like malnourished children and people with weak immunity and can cause serious complications including blindness, encephalitis, severe diarrhoea, ear infections and pneumonia. The disease can be prevented by immunisation and experts say increasing vaccination rates to above 95 percent worldwide and keeping them up is the only way to eradicate measles.
The WHO study said the even with 74 percent drop meant measles killed an estimated 139,200 people across the world in 2010, down from just over 535,000 in 2000.
India’s poor vaccine coverage
The researchers, led by WHO immunisation expert Peter Strebel, suggested India’s relatively low measles vaccine coverage – 74 percent – is the reason why the disease is still a major cause of death there. It lags behind Africa on 76 percent. The study found that India accounted for 47 percent of measles deaths in 2010, while Africa had 36 percent. The Americas and Europe accounted for less than 1 percent each, but fears about a measles comeback have been growing in these regions too.