The region of the Americas is the first in the world to have eliminated measles, a viral disease that can cause severe health problems, the United Nations health agency has declared.
“This is an historic day for our region and indeed the world,” said Carissa F. Etienne, Director of the Pan American Health Organisation of the UN World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO) yesterday, noting that the achievement culminates a 22-year effort involving mass vaccination against measles, mumps and rubella throughout the Americas.
“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,” she added.
The announcement was made during the 55th Directing Council of PAHO/WHO, which is currently under way 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 and 16,000 deaths between 2000 and 2020 will have been prevented in the region, WHO said.
Read more at: United Nations News Centre