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Sex differences in measles mortality: a world review.

BACKGROUND: In general females have a lower mortality than males at all ages. Excess female mortality has been documented in certain high mortality situations, in particular in South Asia. However, females may have a higher mortality for certain causes of death. One of the causes of death for which excess female mortality is suspected is measles.

METHOD: Sex differences in measles mortality are investigated using all national data on causes of death published by WHO since 1950. An index of excess mortality is used: the geometric mean of the female sex ratios of age-specific deaths rates from measles, from age 0 to 44 years.

RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS: When pooled together, the results show an excess of female mortality from birth until age 50 years. The excess female mortality appears small at age 0-4 (+4.2%), larger at age 5-14 (+10.9%) and peaks during the female reproductive period, at age 15-44 (+42.6%). This pattern of excess female mortality occurs in all the major regions of the world: Europe, North and South America, Far-East Asia, the Middle East and South Asia. The only noticeable exceptions are the Philippines and Thailand. The validity of the finding is extensively reviewed. Emphasis lies on the statistical power to prove that sex differences in measles mortality do exist, on the critical analysis of a case study in England and Wales, on the comparison with the overall pattern of sex differences and on available data on sex differences in incidence. Possible explanations are reviewed.

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