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Vaccination Campaign Cuts Measles Deaths; New Goal Set

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By Caty Weaver
2007-1-23

This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

Measles is one of the most infectious viruses known. It spreads through the air when people infected with the disease cough or sneeze. Children in wealthier countries are usually vaccinated to protect against measles.

A child in Togo receives measles vaccination

An international campaign called the Measles Initiative was launched in two thousand one to vaccinate children in developing countries. The aim was a fifty percent reduction in deaths related to measles by two thousand five.

Last week, organizers of the Measles Initiative announced that the final numbers showed a sixty percent drop in deaths.

In nineteen ninety-nine, the year used for comparison, there were eight hundred seventy-three thousand deaths. Six years later that number had dropped to three hundred forty-five thousand.

The organizers say more than two million lives have been saved, mostly in Africa. Health officials report a seventy-five percent drop in deaths in Africa connected to measles.

Measles itself is usually not a direct cause of death. Deaths are commonly the result of infections like pneumonia or severe diarrhea. Those who survive can suffer brain damage, blindness or other disabilities.

The first sign of infection is usually a high body temperature for as long as a week. Patients may develop a runny nose, cough, red and watery eyes and white spots inside the mouth. After several days, a skin rash develops, first usually on the face and upper neck.

A case of measles can be just a mild and unpleasant part of childhood. But severe cases are more likely in children with poor diets or weakened defenses from conditions like HIV/AIDS.

Children under the age of five and adults over the age of twenty are more likely to suffer severe cases. People who recover from measles can never get it again.

The Measles Initiative includes the American Red Cross, the World Health Organization and UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund.

The campaign has cost almost four hundred million dollars. Officials say about five hundred million more will be needed to meet a new goal by two thousand ten. The goal now is to reduce measles deaths worldwide to less than ten percent of the rate in the year two thousand.

The campaign will now center its efforts in Asian countries, especially India. Each year, about one hundred thousand Indian children die as a result of measles.

And that's the VOA Special English Health Report, written by Caty Weaver. I'm Mario Ritter.

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