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In World First, Americas Declared Free of Measles

Image: In World First, Americas Declared Free of Measles

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Tuesday, 27 September 2016 12:10 PM

Measles has been eradicated from the Americas after decades of vaccination efforts, making it the first region of the world to rid itself of the highly contagious disease, global health authorities said Tuesday.

Measles remains a top killer of children worldwide, and took nearly 115,000 lives in 2014 -- or about 13 deaths every hour -- according to the World Health Organization.

Before vaccination became widespread around the globe, measles killed about 2.6 million people per year.

"Endemic transmission of measles has been eliminated from the region," said World Health Organization director Margaret Chan.

"The Americas region has shown that with strong national immunization programs... dedicated financing and strong political commitment and partner support, measles can be stopped," she added, describing it as "an outstanding achievement."

Measles is now the fifth vaccine-preventable disease to be eliminated in the Americas, after smallpox, polio, rubella and congenital rubella syndrome, according to a statement from the Pan American Health Organization.

The end of endemic transmission means the virus is no longer commonly spread locally, although imported cases may still lead to isolated outbreaks.

The region of the Americas reported its last endemic case in 2002.

"However, since measles continues to circulate worldwide, some countries continued to report imported cases," said the PAHO statement.

Over the past year, from August 2015 to August 2016, all countries in the Americas showed documentation that endemic measles had been wiped out to the International Committee of Experts for Documentation and Verification of Measles, Rubella and Congenital Rubella Syndrome Elimination in the Americas.



Measles is a highly contagious virus that lives in the nose and throat of an infected person, and can linger in the air for hours, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Symptoms include white bumps inside the cheeks, fever, runny nose, and cough.

Severe complications can occur, leading to miscarriage in pregnant women as well as the risk of death by pneumonia or brain swelling.

A vaccine became widely available in 1963, but the virus has proven difficult to eradicate.

In recent years, measles outbreaks have risen in some parts of the United States and Europe where parents have refused to vaccinate their children.

When a person is infected outside the area and returns to an area with lower vaccination rates, more children are at risk of getting sick and spreading the disease.

"Sometimes people that are unvaccinated are in groups, so you can see a cluster of cases," said the CDC's Susan Reef, noting that just such an outbreak in California last year does not qualify as "endemic transmission."

Experts said the success of the Americas should not lead people to become complacent about vaccine efforts, which must be maintained at high levels to keep the virus at bay.

"It is my hope that other regions of the world are encouraged by the success of the Americas," said Chan.

"And that the lessons learned here serve them as they move forward toward their own elimination goals."


© AFP 2018

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Measles has been eradicated from the Americas after decades of vaccination efforts, making it the first region of the world to rid itself of the disease, global health authorities said.
Health, US, LatAm, measles
Tuesday, 27 September 2016 12:10 PM
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