At a time when some people have rejected scientific fact about the effectiveness of vaccines, it seems that immunizations might have just saved an entire region from a highly contagious virus. The Pan Health Organization (PAHO) just announced that the Americas are free of measles — and it's all thanks to a 22-year effort from mass vaccination programs.
"Today we say bye-bye to the indigenous transmission of measles," Carissa Etienne, director of the PAHO, said at a meeting. "We celebrate this historic day in which the scourge has been eliminated."
PAHO concluded that the endemic measles transmissions — a specific form of the disease — have been virtually eliminated in the region. However, the Americas could still experience future measles outbreaks if unvaccinated travelers with the disease visit there.
The decrease in the certain type of measles transmissions is due to robust immunization programs that exist throughout the Americas. Other global regions could look to the Americas for inspiration on how to combat the disease.
The World Health Organization says that measles could be transmitted via droplets from the nose, mouth or throat of infected persons. Malnourished children and people with reduced immunity are particularly vulnerable. Measles caused nearly 2.6 million deaths ever year before mass vaccinations began in 1980.
"This is a very big deal," Saad Omer, PhD, a professor at Emory University School of Public Health and Emory Vaccine Center, said to Forbes. "It's significant because measles is a big killer that impacts real life and predisposes babies to other diseases."
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