Measles deaths drop globally by 74 percent

Dec. 6, 2008 at 1:55 AM

ATLANTA, Dec. 6 (UPI) -- Measles deaths worldwide fell by 74 percent from 2000 to 2007, from an estimated 750,000 to 197,000, U.S. and U.N. officials said.

The Eastern Mediterranean region -- which includes countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Sudan -- cut measles deaths by 90 percent during the same period, from an estimated 96,000 to 10,000. The region had a goal of reducing measles deaths by 90 percent by 2010, so it reached the goal three years early.

The founding partners of the Measles Initiative -- the American Red Cross, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.N. Foundation, UNICEF and the World Health Organization -- said the significant decline in measles deaths in the Eastern Mediterranean region was the result of intensified vaccination campaigns, including campaigns in several countries with hard-to-reach areas. More than twice the number of children were immunized in the region through such campaigns in 2007 as in 2006, the officials said.

"This achievement is a tribute to the hard work and commitment of countries in the Eastern Mediterranean region to combat measles," Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO director-general, said in a statement. "With only two years until the 2010 target date, I urge all countries affected by measles to intensify their efforts to immunize all children against the disease."

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