According to the Pan American Health Organization, a division of the United Nations, and the World Health Organization, measles has been eliminated from the Americas. This region includes all the countries in North, Central, South America, and the Caribbean. These statistics mean that measles has been eliminated in the sense that all new cases that come into any of these countries have been brought in from another source; there are no cases of measles originating in the Americas.
Measles causes symptoms that are not all that different from a cold, with fever, light sensitivity, and rashes; however, it can also cause blindness or even be deadly. Today, four out of five children receive basic vaccines in infancy, preventing measles and other common viruses. But this does not mean the threat is gone. Though the disease may be eliminated, it has not been eradicated due to unvaccinated children and adults catching cases of measles from imported sources.
The World Health Organization says that 95% of the population in 80% of cities must receive the measles vaccination to prevent the spread of the disease from imported cases. Without majority vaccination, further measles outbreaks can occur, especially in areas where fewer children are vaccinated.
Measles has been eliminated from the U.S.
Parents and their healthcare providers must be diligent in providing vaccines to their children and themselves. Vaccines may help eradicate measles and other diseases from the world, as has been done with polio, smallpox, and rubella.
“This is a historic day for our region and indeed the world,” PAHO/WHO Director Carissa Etienne told a gathering of experts in Washington DC on September 27. These words are true, but there is much work to be done in countries in Africa and Asia where funds for vaccines are far lower and many more children die of common illnesses that are all but gone in the Americas. Measles may be eliminated from the Americas, but there’s a long way to go.