Measles killed 82,100 children under age 5 in 2013, ranking the disease at No. 7 on the list of the top causes of child death, according to recent statistics from the Global Burden of Disease study published in the Lancet. Lower respiratory infections like pneumonia were the number one killer, followed by malaria, diarrhea, nutritional deficiencies, congenital defects and meningitis. More small children died from measles in 2013 than died from drowning, road injuries or aids.
Here in the United States, we have the luxury of signing up for "personal belief exemptions" from vaccine requirements and indulging vaccine skeptics in their unfounded beliefs about the "dangers" posed by measles vaccines. Currently there are 113 countries that can boast better measles vaccination rates than the United States. The only reason this is possible, of course, is the incredible effectiveness of vaccines at eradicating diseases like measles.
But these numbers serve as a stark reminder that in the developing world, where measles kills roughly 225 children each day, the situation is quite different. Children under 5 make up more than half of the 145,000 deaths attributed to the disease annually. In some particularly impoverished and malnourished areas, the disease has a fatality rate of 10 percent.
According to the World Health Organization, it costs about a dollar to immunize a child against measles. But a single case of the disease here in the United States costs about $11,000 to treat. Not a bad return on investment.