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Reuters Examines Measles Outbreaks In Africa

Reuters reports on how some health experts worry that growing complacency about the threat of measles in Africa is contributing to “some of [the continent’s] largest and most deadly outbreaks in years.” Worldwide, “[a]bout 164,000 people died from measles in 2008, down 78 percent from 733,000 in 2000, according to the Measles Initiative,” Reuters reports, adding that “UNICEF fears the combined effect of decreased political and financial commitment to measles could reverse the gains, resulting in an estimated 1.7 million measles-related deaths globally between 2010 and 2013.”

So far this year in Africa, measles has claimed the lives of “more than 1,400 people, many of them young children,” according to the news service. While the toll of measles on Africa is “relatively small compared with India,” where about 75 percent of measles deaths occur, “the risk is that continued complacency will allow this virus to spread rapidly.”

“According to the WHO, more than 28 countries in Africa have suffered outbreaks of measles this year,” Reuters continues, naming Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe as counties with the highest number of outbreaks.

The article also details how health officials in Malawi are responding to the measles outbreak, which officials “say … has killed 197 people and infected 77,000 since January – the highest numbers recorded there in the past decade.” Reuters writes: “With the death toll on the rise, Malawi’s health ministry has embarked on a major vaccination campaign, focusing on rural areas where 80 percent of its 13 million population lives.”

The piece features comments by Andrea Gay of the U.N. Foundation and Edward Hoekstra of UNICEF’s Global Measles Program (Kelland, 8/17).

A Reuters factbox features additional information about measles, including the cost of measles vaccines. According to Reuters, “It costs less than $1 to vaccinate a child against measles, and two doses are needed for full protection. People who have measles and recover from it have lifelong immunity” (Kelland, 8/17).