Americas Free From Measles WHO Says
Measles has been one of the most contagious diseases in the past. Epidemics have been known to arise because of the virus. The disease can spread easily through the air. Some countries have already been declared as measles-free because of the availability of the measles vaccine but for the first time, the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a whole region to be free from the notorious disease.
The Americas have been declared measles-free by the WHO. This is a wide area stretching from Canada all the way to Chile, according to NBC News. What made it possible is a continuous and sustained vaccination campaign. There are still a few outbreaks they have been brought on by people who have contracted the disease from other parts of the world, however.
With the elimination of measles from the Americas, it has joined other diseases that have been eliminated from the region. Smallpox has been eliminated from the Americas in 1971. Polio was declared eliminated from the region in 1994 and German measles most recently in 2015. Globally smallpox has been eliminated since 1972.
The last known measles case was in Brazil last July 2015. Science News reports that the last homegrown measles outbreak in the Americas was in Venezuela in 2002. That doesn't mean that vaccination is going to stop, though. Measles can still be brought by people who have been in other parts of the world, so vaccination is still crucial.
There is a difference between eradication and elimination, which should be noted. Eradication means the disease doesn't exist anymore. Elimination means that the disease doesn't occur in the territory but could still be brought in from other parts. This difference should be noted since measles is an airborne disease and could still be contracted from those who have acquired it elsewhere. WHO notes that measles can still highly affect children not vaccinated from it.
"We cannot be complacent with this achievement, but must rather protect it carefully," said Carissa Etienne, director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).
With measles still highly contagious, continuous efforts are being done to have measles vaccines available worldwide. WHO reports that 244,704 cases of measles have been known worldwide last year.
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