Two-dose immunization of measles vaccine give lifelong protection

KARACHI: Measles is a highly contagious, serious disease caused by a virus. In 1980, before widespread vaccination, measles caused an estimated 2.6 million deaths each year.

According to WHO, it remains one of the leading causes of death among young children globally, despite the availability of a safe and effective vaccine. Approximately 122 000 people died from measles in 2012 – mostly children under the age of five.

This fact file on measles has been created for World Immunization Week (24-30 April). This year the slogan for the week is “Immunize for a healthy future: Know, Check, Protect”.

It is a serious disease caused by a virus. It spreads through the air when infected people cough and sneeze. The measles vaccine is often given in a combination shot that also protects against rubella and/or mumps. It is equally effective in the single or combined form. Getting immunized with 2 doses of measles vaccine gives lifelong protection. By getting vaccinated, you ensure that you and your family are protected in the event of a measles outbreak at home or while travelling.

Measles is one of the most infectious diseases known to humankind and an important cause of death and disability among children worldwide. Those unvaccinated against the disease are at risk of severe health Complications such as pneumonia, diarrhoea, and encephalitis (a dangerous infection of the brain causing inflammation) and blindness. The disease can be fatal.

Measles is transmitted via droplets from the nose, mouth or throat of infected persons. Initial symptoms, which usually appear 10–12 days after infection, include high fever, a runny nose, bloodshot eyes, and tiny white spots on the inside of the mouth. Several days later, a rash develops, starting on the face and upper neck and gradually spreading downwards.

Routine measles vaccinations for children, combined with mass immunization campaigns in countries with low routine coverage, are key public health strategies to reduce global measles deaths.

While global measles deaths have decreased by 78 percent worldwide in recent years — from 562 400 deaths in 2000 to 122 000 in 2012 — measles is still common in many developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. Indeed, more than 20 million people are affected by measles each year. The overwhelming majority (more than 95%) of measles deaths occur in countries with low per capita incomes and weak health infrastructures.

The measles vaccine has been in use for 50 years. It is safe, effective and inexpensive. WHO recommends immunization for all susceptible children and adults for whom measles vaccination is not contraindicated. Reaching all children with 2 doses of measles vaccine, either alone, or in a measles-rubella (MR) or measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) combination, should be the standard for all national immunization program.

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