Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals

Measles

Measles is a highly contagious viral disease. It remains an important cause of death among young children globally, despite the availability of a safe and effective vaccine.

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 omplications 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 programmes.

WHO position papers

Related links

WHO

Partners

Last updated: 6 February 2014

Share