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North, South America declared measles free continents

Measles is a viral disease that can cause severe health problems, including pneumonia, blindness, brain swelling and even death. It is one of the most contagious diseases and affects primarily children. 

New York: The Region of the Americas -- North and South America -- became the first continents in the world to have eliminated measles altogether.

The declaration was made by the International Expert Committee for Documenting and Verifying Measles, Rubella, and Congenital Rubella Syndrome Elimination in the Americas.

Measles is a viral disease that can cause severe health problems, including pneumonia, blindness, brain swelling and even death. It is 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.

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

Before mass vaccination was initiated in 1980, around 1,01,800 deaths were attributable to measles between 1971 and 1979 in the Americas.

"This historic 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," said Carissa F. Etienne, Director at the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), during the 55th Directing Council of the PAHO/WHO.

Measles transmission had been considered interrupted in the Region since 2002, when the last endemic case was reported in the Americas. However, as the disease had continued to circulate in other parts the world, some countries in the Americas experienced imported cases. 

The International Expert Committee reviewed evidence on measles elimination presented by all the countries of the Region between 2015 and August 2016 and decided that it met the established criteria for elimination.

PAHO/WHO's elimination strategy had recommended three lines of action for countries: conduct a one-time national campaign to bring children between 1 and 14 years of age up to date with measles vaccination; strengthen routine vaccination to reach a minimum of 95 per cent of children every year; and undertake massive follow-up campaigns every four years, to reach a minimum of 95 per cent of children aged one to four with a second dose of vaccine.

Following this strategy, the last indigenous measles outbreak was registered in Venezuela in 2002. However, some countries in the Region still notified 5,077 imported measles cases between 2003 and 2014.

After a year of targeted actions and enhanced surveillance, the last case of measles in Brazil was registered in July 2015.

With this achievement and considering that the region has sustained elimination for more than 12 years, the International Expert Committee accepted the evidence presented by the countries and declared the elimination of measles in the Americas.

From Zee News

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