Measles Eliminated in the Americas: PAHO

Measles is the fifth vaccine-preventable disease to be eliminated from the Americas, following the regional eradication of smallpox in 1971, poliomyelitis in 1994, and rubella and congenital rubella syndrome in 2015.

Measles has been eliminated in the Americas, making it the world's first region to achieve the elimination of this viral disease that can cause severe health problems, including pneumonia, brain swelling, and death. The World Health Organization said the achievement culminates a 22-year effort involving mass vaccination against measles, mumps, and rubella throughout the Americas.

The achievement was declared by the International Expert Committee for Documenting and Verifying Measles, Rubella, and Congenital Rubella Syndrome Elimination in the Americas during the 55th Directing Council of the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization. Measles is the fifth vaccine-preventable disease to be eliminated from the Americas, following the regional eradication of smallpox in 1971, poliomyelitis in 1994, and rubella and congenital rubella syndrome in 2015.

"This is a historic day for our region and indeed the world," said Pan American Health Organization/WHO Director Carissa F. Etienne. "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."

Etienne said the milestone "would never have been possible without the strong political commitment of our Member States in ensuring that all children have access to life-saving vaccines. It would not have been possible without the generosity and commitment of health workers and volunteers who have worked so hard to take the benefits of vaccines to all people, including those in vulnerable and hard-to-reach communities. Indeed it would not have been possible without the strong leadership and coordination provided by PAHO, Regional Office for the Americas of WHO."

Etienne also warned that countries should not drop their vigilance against the disease. "I would like to emphasize that our work on this front is not yet done. We cannot become complacent with this achievement but must rather protect it carefully. Measles still circulates widely in other parts of the world, and so we must be prepared to respond to imported cases. It is critical that we continue to maintain high vaccination coverage rates, and it is crucial that any suspected measles cases be immediately reported to the authorities for rapid follow-up," Etienne said.

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