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Americas declared free of measles

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Staff Writer | Thursday September 29, 2016 6:53AM ET
Measles
No more fear   Measles is the fifth vaccine-preventable disease to be eliminated

The Region of the Americas is the first in the world to have eliminated measles, a viral disease that can cause severe health problems, including pneumonia, blindness, brain swelling and even death.


This achievement culminates a 22-year effort involving mass vaccination against measles, mumps and rubella throughout the Americas.

The declaration of measles' elimination was made by the International Expert Committee for Documenting and Verifying Measles, Rubella, and Congenital Rubella Syndrome Elimination in the Americas.

The announcement came during the 55th Directing Council of the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), which is currently underway and is being attended by ministers of Health from throughout the Americas.

Measles is the fifth vaccine-preventable disease to be eliminated from the Americas, after the regional eradication of smallpox in 1971, poliomyelitis in 1994, and rubella and congenital rubella syndrome in 2015.

Before mass vaccination was initiated in 1980, measles caused nearly 2.6 million annual deaths worldwide. In the Americas, 101,800 deaths were attributable to measles between 1971 and 1979.

A cost-effectiveness study on measles elimination in Latin America and the Caribbean has estimated that with vaccination, 3.2 million measles cases will have been prevented in the Region and 16,000 deaths between 2000 and 2020.

Measles transmission had been considered interrupted in the Region since 2002, when the last endemic case was reported in the Americas. However, as the disease had continued to circulate in other parts the world, some countries in the Americas experienced imported cases.

The International Expert Committee reviewed evidence on measles elimination presented by all the countries of the Region between 2015 and August 2016 and decided that it met the established criteria for elimination. The process included six years of work with countries to document evidence of the elimination.

Measles is one of the most contagious diseases and affects primarily children.

 

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