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Endemic Measles Now Eliminated In The Americas: WHO

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The Americas have been declared measles free. The World Health Organization (WHO) announcement on Sept. 27 said that it is the first region in the world to achieve the feat.

The WHO announcement followed a rigorous six-year review of the conditions in the region.

"This is a historic day for our region and indeed the world," Carissa Etienne, director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the American arm of WHO, said.

According to the WHO, measles is a highly contagious disease that mostly affects children. The spread of measles happens from airborne droplets and direct contact with secretions from the mouth, nose and throat of the infected.

The end of endemic transmission of measles means that local cases of the virus have been arrested, however, imported cases can still cause isolated outbreaks.

The WHO announcement now makes measles the fifth vaccine-preventable disease eliminated in the Americas. Other diseases include polio, smallpox, congenital rubella syndrome and rubella.

Despite measles vaccine being in the market since 1963, the virus had been proving hard to eradicate. The WHO announcement means the homegrown cases of the disease are gone from Canada to Chile. Already, in many countries, including the United States, the scourge has been eliminated.

WHO has credited the success of measles elimination to sustained vaccination campaigns. In a micro level update, PAHO sources said year-long actions have removed the last of the measles case in Brazil, reported in July 2015.

Top Killer Of Children

Measles is considered a top killer of children worldwide. In 2014, it claimed about 115,000 lives and accounts for 13 deaths every hour, according to WHO. Prior to the advent of vaccination, it killed an average 2.6 million people every year.

The highly contagious virus of measles can be found in the nose and throat of an infected person and lingers longer in the air, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The immediate symptoms of measles are rashes and white spot inside the cheeks. The affected person also has high fever, a runny nose and persistent cough.

Measles could also cause some complications. For example, in pregnant women, miscarriages could happen and death by pneumonia and swelling of the brain are also common.

In the Americas, it took 14 years to declare the disease as fully eradicated. This is in stark contrast to the average three years required for making such a declaration. According to experts, many factors have contributed to this delay, including the surge in mobile migrants, lack of access to violence-stricken areas and poor infrastructure for communications.

Photo: Cory Doctorow | Flickr

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