The Americas has become the first region in the world to eliminate measles
World Health Organization has recently declared Americas a measles free region. This means that measles has now been eliminated from all the countries in North, South and Central America, making it the first and only region in the entire world to achieve this goal.
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The achievement came after 22-year of intense effort involving mass vaccination against measles and was driven by individual countries. And United States is one of them.
“This is a historic day for our region and indeed the world,” said Carissa F. Etienne, director of Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO). “It is proof of the remarkable success that can be achieved when countries work together in solidarity towards a common goal. It is the result of a commitment made more than two decades ago, in 1994, when the countries of the Americas pledged to end measles circulation by the turn of the 21st century.”
Measles is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus from paramyxovirus family and it primarily affects children. The disease can transfar through air or via direct contact. Symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose and red, watery eyes. It can result in serious health complications including pneumonia, severe diarrhea and blindness and even cause death.
Measles is the leading cause of death in children worldwide and used to kill 2.6 million people globally before widespread vaccination in 1980. In the Americas alone, 101,800 deaths were attributed to measles between 1971 and 1979. Since the implementation of mass vaccination against measles in 1980, the deaths caused by the disease have decreased considerably in numbers. Only 244,704 measles cases were reported worldwide in 2015, which represents a significant decline from earlier years.
“This historic milestone would never have been possible without the strong political commitment of our Member States in ensuring that all children have access to life-saving vaccines.” Etienne said.
A region or a country is declared disease-free if there are no new cases reported for at least three years but in this instance it took 14 years. The last time a case of measles in the Region was reported in 2002.
Overall, measles is the fifth vaccine-preventable disease to be eliminated from the Americas after the eradication of smallpox, polio, rubella and congenital rubella syndrome.