Zee Media Bureau/Salome Phelamei
New Delhi: Measles can be prevented through vaccination, but nearly 6.4 million newborns are still not being immunized annually, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.
Measles is a childhood infection of the respiratory system, immune system and skin caused by a virus, specifically a paramyxovirus of the genus Morbillivirus.
WHO warned that the progress to eradicate the disease has stalled globally in the past one year, giving rise to deaths from the highly contagious disease.
The new data, published in the WHO Weekly Epidemiological Report and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report on Thursday, shows that more than 145,000 people died of measles in 2013, up from 122,000 in 2012.
“Failure to reverse this alarming trend could jeopardize the momentum generated by a decade of achievements in reducing measles mortality,” said Peter Strebel of the WHO's immunization department. “Countries urgently need to prioritize maintaining and improving immunization coverage.”
The estimated death toll due to measles in 2013 represents a 75% decline in mortality since 2000, which is significantly below the WHO's target of 95% reduction in deaths between 2000 and 2015.
Although there has been impressive progress in wiping out the disease in recent years, the huge reduction in measles deaths is now tapering off.
With poor countries contributing to the vast majority of deaths, in 2013, more than 70% of global measles deaths were in six countries- India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
While there is no specific treatment for measles, most people recover within a few weeks. However, measles can cause serious complications, including blindness, encephalitis, severe diarrhoea, ear infection and pneumonia in poor, malnourished children and people with reduced immunity.
Signs and symptoms include cough, runny nose, inflamed eyes, sore throat, fever and red, blotchy skin rashes.