Page last updated at 11:49 GMT, Friday, 5 December 2008

Big drop in global measles cases

Measles virus
Measles can cause death and disability

The number of deaths across the world caused by measles has fallen by 74% in the past seven years.

In 2007 the World Health Organization (WHO) registered 197,000 measles deaths, compared to 750,000 in 2000.

The WHO said two-thirds of the reduction took place in Africa, where the number of deaths dropped by 89%.

Deaths in the eastern Mediterranean region, including Afghanistan, Pakistan and Somalia, dropped by 90% in the same period.

It is a tragedy that measles still kills more than 500 children a day when there is a safe, effective and inexpensive vaccine to prevent the disease
Ann Veneman
UNICEF

However, the WHO warned that measles outbreaks occurred in a number of African countries in 2007 due to gaps in immunisation coverage, reinforcing the need for a comprehensive approach.

And progress was more limited in the South-East Asia region, where two-thirds of global measles deaths occur, with death rates down by 42%.

Lack of progress here has been blamed on delays to a large-scale vaccination campaign in India.

The United Nations is committed to reducing measles deaths by 90% by 2010.

Ann Veneman, executive director of UNICEF, said: "The progress that has been made shows what can be achieved through measles vaccination campaigns, but much more needs to be done.

"It is a tragedy that measles still kills more than 500 children a day when there is a safe, effective and inexpensive vaccine to prevent the disease."

Measles is a highly contagious disease characterised by high fever and the eruption of small red spots, which kills about one person for every 1,000 infections.

To be protected children need two doses of measles vaccine, including one by their first birthday.

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Measles cases surge to new high
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