Measles still a major threat for children in India: Report

London: Measles mortality has declined by 74 per cent worldwide in the past decade, but it still remains a major concern in India which accounted for 47 per cent of all measles-related deaths in 2010.

And poor vaccine coverage is said to be the main reason behind India`s failure to tackle the disease, according to a report published in The Lancet today.

In 2008, all the World Health Organisation (WHO) member states had endorsed a target of reducing measles mortality by 90 per cent by 2010 compared to levels in 2000.

But a new study, conducted by WHO, Penn State University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US, showed that estimated measles mortality in the world decreased from 5,35,300 deaths in 2000 to 1,39,300 in 2010 -- a decline by 74 per cent.

However, India accounted for 29,808, or 47 per cent, of the global measles deaths in 2010, the study found.

The death rate in India is even higher than that recorded in African countries. While Africa accounted for 36 per cent global measles deaths in 2010, Southeast Asia, excluding India, accounted for eight per cent, the Eastern Mediterranean Region seven per cent, the Western Pacific Region two per cent, and the Americas and Europe less than one per cent each.

The authors, led by Dr Peter Strebel of WHO`s Department of Immunisation, Vaccines and Biologicals, suggested that India`s relatively low measles vaccine coverage is the reason why measles remains a major cause of death in the country.

With only 74 per cent coverage, the country lags behind even Africa, which is on 76 per cent, they said.

"Despite rapid progress in measles control from 2000 to 2007, delayed implementation of accelerated disease control in India and continued outbreaks in Africa stalled momentum towards the 2010 global measles mortality reduction goal," the authors said.

"Intensified control measures and renewed political and financial commitment are needed to achieve mortality reduction targets and lay the foundation for future global eradication of measles," they added.

Measles has been a major killer of children around the world. Despite the introduction of the measles vaccine in 1963, measles caused an estimated 2?6 million deaths in a single year as recently as 1980.