News / Health

Measles Making Comeback

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Vidushi Sinha

Once nearly eradicated in many countries, measles may become a threat once again.  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 33 countries have seen an increase in the number of cases. Researchers argue that efforts to completely eradicate measles are facing an uphill battle, due to lack of financial support and political will.

Just when health experts thought they were close to eradicating measles worldwide, major outbreaks are showing up in several countries - in Europe, sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. And not only in low-income countries.  Even France has seen one of the largest outbreaks, despite readily-available vaccines and a good health infrastructure.

Andrea Gay at Measles Initiative, an international partnership for measles eradication, says developed countries and the developing world both face problems containing the infection.

"Most of the time in developing countries when children are not vaccinated, it's because they don't have access to the vaccines.  But in developed countries there is access. It's more a question of not choosing to use that access," Gay noted.

Gay adds that pediatricians have to be more alert and governments have to become more proactive in containing measles outbreaks.

It is children who are the most vulnerable to this highly contagious respiratory infection, which can lead to such complication as blindness and swelling of the brain - and can even prove fatal in extreme cases.  Measles kills 450 children every day.

The United Nations has been fighting measles for years.  And its goal of reducing deaths from the disease was achieved to a large extent almost three years ago.

"At the end of 2008, every country in the world had achieved that goal of 90 percent or more measles mortality reduction except India, but because India is such a large country and accounts for large number of measles deaths - their numbers brought down the overall numbers," Gay explained.

But experts say it is important to eliminate measles from all parts of the world.  Otherwise it will continue to circulate back from regions where it still exists.

Gay says it only costs about $1 per child to vaccinate against measles.  The stumbling block, she says, is the lack of political commitment in many countries

"Because as measles has become less prevalent, and people don't see the disease, but they see many other diseases they tend to focus on those things that they see forgetting that if you don't have vaccination you will begin to see measles again," Gay said.

According to Measles Initiative, it will take approximately $212 million between 2012 and 2015 in order to eradicate measles by 2020.

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