Govt Launches Measles Campaign

JAKARTA ~ The government launched a campaign this week to inoculate 14 million children against measles, which kills an Indonesian child every 20 minutes, or 30,000 a year, officials said.

For the next month, thousands of health workers will fan out across the main island of Java to vaccinate children aged between six months and 12 years.

The campaign is supported by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), American Red Cross and World Health Organisation.

“Globally, millions of children remain at risk from measles. Malnourished and un-immunized children under five, especially infants, are at high risk of measles infection and are most vulnerable to death,” they said in a joint statement.

Up to 30,000 Indonesian children die each year from measles and measles-related complications.

Measles suppresses the body’s immune system, weakening its ability to fight against pneumonia – which accounts for 60 percent of measles-related deaths – diarrhea and acute encephalitis.

The current round of inoculations is the fourth phase of a campaign launched in 2005 in Aceh and North Sumatra. Provinces not targeted in the earlier phases are due to be visited in August, the statement said.

A global measles initiative has led to the inoculation of more than 360 million children from 1999 to 2005, reducing measles deaths by 60 percent.

Measles, one of the most contagious diseases known, was the world’s single most lethal infectious agent before a live attenuated vaccine emerged in 1963.

In the early 1960s, as many as 135 million cases of measles occurred each year, six million of them fatal.

Many health experts say that measles, like smallpox, can be eradicated, because the virus does not mutate.

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