August 17, 2010 / 12:22 PM / in 7 years

FACTBOX-Measles: A contagious but preventable disease

LONDON, Aug 17 (Reuters) - Here are some facts about measles -- a disease which has killed more than 1,400 people in Africa this year in some of the most serious outbreaks seen on the continent for around a decade.

* Measles is a highly contagious viral disease affecting mostly children. It is one of the leading causes of death among children even though a safe and cost-effective vaccine is available. In 2008, there were 164,000 measles deaths globally.

* More than 95 percent of measles deaths occur in low-income countries with weak health infrastructures.

* Improved rates of measles vaccination resulted in a 78 percent drop in measles deaths worldwide between 2000 and 2008.

* Measles vaccines have been in use for over 40 years. They are considered by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to be safe, effective and inexpensive.

* It costs less than $1 to vaccinate a child against measles, and two doses are needed for full protection. People who have measles and recover from it have lifelong immunity.

* Measles symptoms usually appear about 8 to 12 days after infection and include high fever, bloodshot eyes and tiny white spots inside the mouth. A rash also develops, starting on the face and upper neck and gradually spreading over the body.

* Measles is easily passed from one person to another when someone with the disease coughs, sneezes or talks, putting infected droplets into the air or onto surfaces.

* Most people who get measles recover in two to three weeks. Measles can cause serious complications including blindness, severe diarrhoea, ear infections, pneumonia and death in people with weakened immune systems, such as young children or those who are malnourished.

* The WHO advises that all children in developing countries diagnosed with measles should receive two doses of vitamin A supplements, given 24 hours apart. This can help prevent eye damage and blindness. Vitamin A supplements have been shown to reduce the number of deaths from measles by 50 percent.

SOURCES: Reuters/WHO/Measles Initiative

Compiled by Kate Kelland; Editing by Nina Chestney

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