Slide 6 - Deaths from measles according to age and vitamin A status
Vitamin A deficiency affects the body's immune system and the cells which protect the lining of the lungs and gut. The damage it causes results in an inability to control and prevent infections. Vitamin A deficiency is linked with a higher rate of measles complications and a higher death rate.
The association between vitamin A deficiency levels and death from measles is shown in this slide from Zaire. Children under two years of age with measles infection who also had a very low vitamin A level had double the risk of dying compared to children with higher levels.
In the USA, where clinical vitamin A deficiency is very rare, measles cases in children with low vitamin A levels have been associated with an increased risk of admission to hospital and severe disease. Vitamin A therapy reduces the rate and severity of complications, particularly croup, pneumonia and diarrhoea. The duration of hospital stay is reduced in children given supplements of vitamin A.
Vitamin A therapy as part of the case management of measles is discussed in slides 44-45.