Good News Americas region free from measles - WHO

Measles is one of the leading causes of death among young children even though a safe and cost-effective vaccine is available.

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The Americas region has become the first in the world to be declared free of measles.

The declaration was made by the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO); which is the regional office of the World Health Organisation.

According to Carissa F. Etienne, the director general of PAHO, the declaration is ‘historic’ not just for the region but the world at large.

“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 21 century.”

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The term Americas refers to the combination of the continents of North and South America and is made up of 35 countries.

Before vaccination began in 1980, measles killed 100,000 people in the Americas; contributing to the 2.3 million lives lost worldwide.

The World Health Organisation describes measles as “one of the most contagious diseases and affects primarily children. 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.”

FACTS about measles (World Health Organisation)

  • Measles is one of the leading causes of death among young children even though a safe and cost-effective vaccine is available.
  • In 2014, there were 114,900 measles deaths globally – about 314 deaths every day or 13 deaths every hour.
  • The first sign of measles is usually a high fever, which begins about 10 to 12 days after exposure to the virus, and lasts 4 to 7 days.


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