Measles kill 22 in Zimbabwe

HARARE, Zimbabwe — An outbreak of measles has killed 22 people in Zimbabwe's Manicaland province, authorities said.

The victims, most of them children, had not been vaccinated, Health and Child Welfare Minister Henry Madzorera said at a news conference Dec. 28, according to UPI.

"This is an unwarranted loss of lives given the fact that measles is preventable," Madzorera said, urging all parents to have their children immunized against the highly contagious disease.

The World Health Organization said two weeks ago it was "deeply frustrated" by the measles outbreak, which came after it sponsored a vaccination program in the African nation.

Dr. Custodia Mandlhate, WHO's director in Zimbabwe, told journalists in Harare that the outbreak has totaled more than 340 suspected cases this year, and "this is not acceptable." She said the outbreak came about "mainly because of people who have denied their children vaccination."

Measles primarily affects children younger than 5 and can lead to blindness, inflammation of the middle ear, brain damage and death.

Worldwide, fatal measles cases dropped from 750,000 in 2000 to 197,000 in 2007 because of vigorous vaccination programs, the WHO reported.

Immunization in many developing countries, including Zimbabwe, is subsidized by international groups and costs families nothing, The Zimbabwe Herald reported Dec. 29.