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Sierra Leone News: Measles deaths fall, but world still far from eliminating disease – WHO

The United Nations reported on Thursday 26 October 2017, that annual deaths from measles dropped below 100,000 last year for the first time to 90,000 and stated that the world is still far from reaching the goal to eliminate the disease.
“We have seen a substantial drop in measles deaths for more than two decades, but now we must strive to reach zero measles cases,” said Jean-Marie Okwo-Bele, Director of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals, in a joint statement with the Measles and Rubella Initiative (MR&I).
A study, published by MR&I – a partnership formed in 2001 between the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), WHO, UN Foundation, American Red Cross, and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – marks the first time that global measles deaths have fallen below 100,000 per year.
“Measles elimination will only be reached if measles vaccines reach every child, everywhere,” added Dr. Okwo-Bele.
Since 2000, an estimated 5.5 billion doses of measles-containing vaccines have been provided to children through routine immunization services and mass vaccination campaigns, saving an estimated 20.4 million lives.
The status of Sierra Leone with regards measles cases is not an alarming issue, according to Thomas, Representative, Ministry of Health.
Thomas said most cases of measles, when tested, are actually rubeola. Thomas continued that as an initiative to eliminate measles, the Ministry has commenced a double dose vaccine.
According to the UN statement, people being treated with the first of two vaccine-required doses have stalled at approximately 85% since 2009, far short of the 95% coverage needed to stop the infections, and coverage with the second dose, despite recent increases, was only 64% in 2016.
“Some 20.8 million children are still missing their first measles vaccine dose – more than half of whom live in West African countries. Since measles is a highly contagious viral disease, large outbreaks continue to occur, putting children at risk of severe health complications, such as pneumonia, diarrhoea, encephalitis, blindness and death,” WHO says. B
The symptoms of measles according to Centre for Disease Control generally appear about seven to 14-days after a person is infected. Measles typically begins with high fever, cough, runny nose and red, watery eyes. Two or three days after symptoms begin, tiny white spots (Koplik spots) may appear inside the mouth.
Countries with the greatest number of measles deaths rely most heavily on polio-funded resources. Once polio eradication is achieved, those resources, which support routine immunization services, measles and rubella vaccination campaigns and surveillance will be at high risk of diminishing and disappearing, reversing the progress made.
By Sylvia Villa
Monday October 30, 2017.

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