WHO updates fact sheet on Measles (16 November 2015)

The World Health Organization (WHO) has updated its fact sheet on Measles.

Background Information:

Measles is a highly contagious, serious disease caused by a virus.

The virus is spread by coughing and sneezing, close personal contact or direct contact with infected nasal or throat secretions.

Infection results in high fever, runny nose, cough, watery eyes, and a characteristic rash.

Typically, the rash first appears on the face and upper neck, then rapidly spreads to involve the entire body in about 3 days. The rash fades after 5-6 days.

Most measles-related deaths are caused by complications associated with the disease:

  • blindness
  • encephalitis (an infection that causes brain swelling)
  • severe diarrhoea and related dehydration
  • ear infections
  • severe respiratory infections such as pneumonia

Severe measles is more likely among poorly nourished young children, especially those with insufficient vitamin A, or whose immune systems have been weakened by HIV/AIDS or other diseases.

Key Messages:

Measles is one of the leading causes of death among young (under 5 years) children even though a safe and cost-effective vaccine is available.

In 2014, there were 114 900 measles deaths globally – about 314 deaths every day or 13 deaths every hour.

Measles vaccination resulted in a 79% drop in measles deaths between 2000 and 2014 worldwide.

In 2014, about 85% of the world’s children received one dose of measles vaccine by their first birthday through routine health services – up from 73% in 2000.

Two doses of the vaccine are recommended to ensure immunity and prevent outbreaks, as about 15% of vaccinated children fail to develop immunity from the first dose.

During 2000-2014, measles vaccination prevented an estimated 17.1 million deaths making measles vaccine one of the best buys in public health.

No specific antiviral treatment exists for the measles virus.

Useful Links:

Link to the updated fact sheet:


Link to the Global measles and rubella strategic plan 2012-2020 (PDF):



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