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Measles Deaths Plunge 78% Since 2000 as Elimination Target Nears

A mother holds her child as she receives a measles vaccine at the Department of Health headquarters in Manila on Jan. 21, 2014. Photographer: Noel Celis/AFP via Getty Images
A mother holds her child as she receives a measles vaccine at the Department of Health headquarters in Manila on Jan. 21, 2014. Photographer: Noel Celis/AFP via Getty Images

Feb. 6 (Bloomberg) -- Deaths from measles have dropped 78 percent since 2000 as global vaccination campaigns curb outbreaks of the pneumonia-causing disease, the World Health Organization said.

About 122,000 people died globally from measles in 2012, down from 562,000 in 2000, the Geneva-based WHO said in a statement today. Reported cases fell by a similar proportion.

The decline is a result of a program supported by the WHO, the American Red Cross, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and others to cut deaths from the illness by 95 percent by 2015 and eliminate it from three of the WHO’s six regions by 2020. While the Americas region has eliminated measles, the European, African and Eastern Mediterranean regions will probably miss the targets, the WHO said. The other areas are South-East Asia and Western Pacific.

“Measles continues to be a global threat,” the agency said. “Without improved immunization coverage both through routine services and mass campaigns, outbreaks will continue to occur.”

Congo, formerly known as Zaire, and India, Indonesia and Ukraine had the largest measles outbreaks in 2012. Five of the six regions still experience large outbreaks, while there are “importations of measles cases” in the Americas, the WHO said.

The elimination partnership, called the Measles & Rubella Initiative, has invested about $950 million to date.

To contact the reporter on this story: Simeon Bennett in Geneva at sbennett9@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Phil Serafino at pserafino@bloomberg.net

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