Measles death rate dips, but experts fear resurgence

Measles deaths declined 78 percent between 2000 and 2008 due to a global initiative to promote childhood vaccination. However, immunization experts warn of a resurgence in deaths if vaccination efforts are not sustained.

An estimated 164,000 people died from measles last year, compared with 733,000 in 2000. While measles deaths dropped almost 17 percent in the last year alone, health officials said there are signs that progress in fighting the disease is slowing, Bloomberg reports.

The Measles Initiative, a partnership that includes UNICEF and the American Red Cross, is taking the lead in the vaccination campaign. It warns of decreased political and financial commitment  for the vaccination program and estimates that without more support, there could be 1.7 million measles-related deaths between 2010 and 2013, with more than half a million deaths in 2013 alone. They are particularly concerned about South-East Asia, where measles deaths declined only 46 percent between 2000 and 2008. The more modest declines are due primarily to delayed implementation of large-scale vaccination campaigns in India, the country with the majority of measles deaths, according to a recent statement.

"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," according to WHO Director-General Margaret Chan.

- read the statement from The Measles Initiative
- check out Bloomberg's coverage