Distribution and Incidence

Measles has a worldwide distribution, and the Expanded Programme on Immunization of the World Health Organization maintains an information system on reported cases and vaccination coverage in member countries. Because of underreporting, worldwide reported measles incidence represents only a small fraction of an estimated 50 million cases and 1.5 million deaths caused annually by measles in developing countries. It should be emphasized that reported incidence is subject to completeness of reporting and also to a general trend of improving disease surveillance. Measles vaccination as part of the Expanded Programme on Immunization, with global coverage estimated at 55 percent for children under 1 year of age (52 percent in developing countries), is currently averting over 40 million cases and over 1 million deaths resulting from the disease each year in Third World countries.

In populated areas where measles is both endemic and epidemic, over 90 percent of the adult population will show serologic evidence of prior infection. In remote or island populations where measles is not endemic, a significant proportion of the population can be susceptible, which may produce large outbreaks when the measles virus is introduced from the outside. In some countries, such as the United States, a national goal of measles elimination has been adopted, and impressive progress toward its control has been achieved.

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