19 January 2007

Measles deaths slashed

It is sometimes hard to think of measles as a major killer – how bad can a childhood illness be? For most of us living in the developed world it now just that, although last year saw the fist British fatality in 14 years. If you live elsewhere it is a different story. It is heartening to read that Measles deaths have been slashed by more than half by campaign that might just pave the way for its eradication.

Between 1999 and 2005, there was a 60% reduction in annual measles deaths worldwide, from 873,000 to 345,000, according to United Nations figures reported in the medical journal the Lancet. In Africa, there was a 75% drop in deaths. In 1999, 506,000 African children died - 90% aged under five. By 2005, the figure had fallen to 126,000.

"This is a historic victory for global public health, for the power of partnership and for commitment by countries to fight a terrible disease," said Dr Margaret Chan, the WHO director-general. "In many parts of Africa the results are very visible and very striking. Instead of seeing numerous fresh graves for young children, this is something of the past. Many measles wards have become empty."

The next goal is even more ambitious - to cut measles deaths by 90% of the 1999 level by 2010. There is even cautious talk of the possibility of ridding the world of measles, but while the eradication of smallpox was a triumph, the long struggle to eliminate the final reservoirs of polio in a handful of countries has shown how difficult it is to stamp out a disease. To reach the 90% goal, the campaign will have to improve the immunisation levels in Africa and attend to other hotspots, including India and Pakistan.


elasticwaistbandlady said...

Here goes my pessimistic side. What happens if the measles sickness mutates into a more virulent form that vaccines can't knock out? Over all though, I have to admit that I wouldn't ever want to live back in the "good old days" of yesteryear like some people pine for. Where medicine wasn't nearly this organized and advanced, and they didn't have the Internet either.

beakerkin said...

We did eliminate small pox. There is some controversy over the Chicken Pox vaccine in the USA. I did get that malady as an adult in my late 30's when it is far more dangerous.

betmo said...

we are seeing old diseases we thought we had wiped out here in america rear their ugly heads. why? since there isn't a threat, some folks won't innoculate their kids so now the little buggies are mutating. sigh. i don't think that you can ever eradicate anything- but we still need to keep trying.

jams o donnell said...

It is inevitable that it will mutate ewbl and there is a possibility that it will become more virulent,,, or perhaps it will become milder as cholera did (in the 19th century I think). Bacteria and viruses mutate quickly so it will always be a battle yo keep them at bay. As for the "good old days" - when there was a good chance of not reaching five because of a dirty water supply or you dying in childbirth. Not all old ways are bad but nthose two are!

What is the controversy beakerkin? there was a storm over the MMR vaccine here thanks to some crap research and a media scare storm.

Absolutely right betmo it is a fight, but a fight we must continue.

beakerkin said...

I had assumed you had a similar problem in the UK. Chickenpox is more annoying than dangerous and most people get it as children.
In adults it becomes shingles which is more dangerous.

There was a battle over if the innoculation was worth the cost or the risk of putting the disease off until it is more dangerous.

jams o donnell said...

I'm not aware of any controversy over th vaccine here. Beakerkin. True it is quite dangerous to contract it as an adult.

mullet said...

no reason why that target can't be met

bsc in physiology jams...out of interest, where did you want to go with that?

Steve Bates said...

No medicine or public-health related degrees here... M.Eng in electrical engineering with an emphasis on byte-head nerd stuff... but I did work for almost a decade in two different public health institutions, so I read all your public-health-related posts with great interests. Keep posting them, jams.

Steve Bates said...

Make that "great interest". If I could type, I'd be dangerous.

jams o donnell said...

Originally I considered medicine or dentistry but lacked the self confidence at the time. I wanted to do a life science and Physiology and biochemistry seemed appealing, perhaps even to take on to postgrade level and beyond. I quickly lost interest in pursuing that path left with my BSC then sort of drifted into what I do nowadays.

Steve, I went to University that had a strong engineering faculty (about 1 student in 3 was studying some sort of engineering) Given that Maths (from calculus and beyond) and Physics are a mystery to me it was not something I would ever have attempted!

Nowadays I like to keep abreast in medical/life science matters generally but just don't ask me to plough through articles in the research journals!!