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Measles battle on the cusp

Friday December 4th, 2009

Deaths from measles world-wide have been dramatically reduced in the last decade, according to figures published last night.

In 2008 some 164,000 people died following a global drive to introduce vaccination.

In 2000, the number of deaths was estimated to be 733,000, according to the World Health Organisation.

The figures were announced as WHO called for countries to continue to work together against H1N1 swine flu, which is spreading in some countries but not in others.

WHO said that the momentum to eradicate measles must not now stall. It warned that cash for the vaccination programme is running out - risking a resurgence of the disease to cause as much as 500,000 deaths a year.

National vaccination campaigns are due to be launched in countries such as China, Indonesia, Pakistan and Nigeria.

Director general Dr Margaret Chan said: "So much has been achieved in the past several years thanks to the hard work and commitment of national governments and donors.

"But with only two years until the target date, there are signs of stalling momentum."

* The latest figures for swine flu in Britain, published yesterday, show a dramatic drop in infection rates. According to the Health Protection Agency estimates, just 27,000 new cases may have occurred in England last week - with another 12,300 in Scotland.

The World Health Organisation said the spread of disease is volatile in the northern hemisphere - with flu spreading rapidly in Scandinavia and Italy. The disease is thought to have reached its peak in the USA.

Dr Keiji Fukuda, of WHO, said some 150 million doses of flu vaccine have now been issued globally.

He said: "The disease continues to evolve and raise new challenges. We continue to face new uncertainty.

"Most activity is in the northern hemisphere - we continue to see an up and down pattern by country. It is too early to say whether activity is peaking in the northern hemisphere."

He added: "Continued global cooperation is really the best basis for fighting this pandemic."

Tags: Africa | Asia | Child Health | Flu & Viruses | World Health

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