The World Health Organisation (WHO) on 27 September 2016 declared the Region of the Americas as Measles free. The declaration came during the 55th Directing Council of the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO).
With this, the Americas became 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 marked culmination of a 22-year effort involving mass vaccination against measles, mumps and rubella throughout the Americas.
Measles is the fifth vaccine-preventable disease to be eliminated from the Americas, after eradication of smallpox in 1971, poliomyelitis in 1994, and rubella and congenital rubella syndrome in 2015.
Spread of Measles and its Elimination in the Americas
• Before mass vaccination was initiated in 1980, measles caused nearly 2.6 million annual deaths worldwide.
• In the Americas, 101800 deaths were attributable to measles between 1971 and 1979.
• However, a cost-effectiveness study on measles elimination estimated that with vaccination 3.2 million measles cases and 16000 deaths can prevented between 2000 and 2020.
• In the 1990s, a decline in measles cases was recorded, but the most notable decrease was observed after the Americas launched its initiative to eliminate measles in 1994.
• The countries of the Americas established the goal to eliminate indigenous transmission of measles by the year 2000, through the implementation of surveillance and vaccination strategies.
• The last indigenous measles outbreak was registered in Venezuela in 2002.
• However, some countries in the Region still notified imported cases. Between 2003 and 2014, 5077 imported measles cases were registered in the Americas.
• Brazil also witnessed the measles outbreak in 2013. However, after a year of targeted actions, the last case of measles in Brazil was registered in July 2015.
• Considering that the Region has sustained elimination for more than 12 years, the International Expert Committee accepted the evidence presented by the countries and declared the elimination of measles in the Americas.
• Measles is one of the most contagious diseases and affects children primarily.
• It is transmitted by airborne droplets or via direct contact with secretions from the nose, mouth, and throat of infected individuals.
• Symptoms include high fever, generalized rash all over the body, stuffy nose, and reddened eyes.
• It can cause serious complications including blindness, encephalitis, severe diarrhea, ear infections and pneumonia, particularly in children with nutritional problems and in immunocompromised patients.
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