The Americas is the first region in the world to be declared free of measles. The viral disease was one of the major causes of childhood mortality, announced Tuesday the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).
“This is the result of a commitment made more than two decades ago in 1994, when the countries of the Americas have pledged to end measles in the early 21st century,” said Carissa Etienne, Director of PAHO at a press conference. She described the achievement as “historic” for the region and the world.
The elimination of measles was declared by the international committee of experts on the disease and rubella during the 55th Directing Council of PAHO. An event will be held this week in Washington. The health ministers of the Americas will participate.
This health success crowns over twenty years of efforts in the context of a mass vaccination campaign against measles, mumps and rubella of all American countries.
Measles, which causes serious complications, has become the fifth infectious disease that can be prevented by a vaccine to have been eliminated in the Americas. It succeeds the eradication in this region of smallpox in 1971 and polio in 1994 and rubella in 2015.
Before the start of the mass immunization in 1980, measles caused about 2.6 million deaths per year worldwide. In the Americas, this disease was responsible for nearly 102,000 deaths between 1971 and 1979.
One study determined that through immunization and measles elimination in Latin America and the Caribbean, 3.2 million disease cases were avoided. Between 2000 and 2020, 16,000 deaths were prevented, says the PAHO, an entity that depends on the W orld Health Organization (WHO).