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HEALTH REPORT - Efforts to Stop Measles - 2003-10-14

Broadcast: October 15, 2003

This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

International health leaders meet in Cape Town, South Africa, this week to discuss efforts to reduce deaths from measles. The World Health Organization organized the special meeting.

Health experts estimate that each year nearly seven-hundred-fifty-thousand children die from the disease. More than half are in Africa. The World Health Organization says measles is the leading cause of preventable death among children. It says up to forty-million people a year get measles. a Measles is highly infectious. The virus can spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Measles produces a red rash on the skin and high body temperature for several days. It can cause a cough, runny nose, and red, watery eyes. But measles can also cause serious health problems such as blindness, pneumonia and brain infection.

Last year, at its Special Session on Children, the United Nations set a goal to reduce deaths from measles. The goal is a fifty percent reduction from the levels in nineteen-ninety-nine. The aim is to reach this goal in two-thousand-five. Another goal is a two-thirds reduction in the number of children under five years of age who die of measles. That goal is to be met by two-thousand-fifteen.

One effort to stop the spread of measles is taking place this week in Uganda. The United Nations Children's Fund is involved in a national vaccination campaign through October nineteenth. Officials expect to give the measles vaccine to more than twelve-million children.

Earlier campaigns were aimed at children age five and younger. But the New Vision newspaper in Uganda says older children have started to suffer from measles. So it says children up to fifteen will be vaccinated in this campaign.

The W-H-O says more children around the world need to get vaccinated against measles in order to protect populations. Children in developing nations may not get the vaccine because of a lack of supplies. But some parents in richer nations refuse the vaccine for their children.

Several years ago, a London doctor suggested a possible link between the vaccine and the mental disorder autism. Most experts dispute any connection. Still, doctors in Britain are concerned because vaccination rates there are down and cases of measles are up.

This VOA Special English Health Report was written by Nancy Steinbach.