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Good News: America Finally Free From Measles Due to Intense Vaccination Efforts

Sep 28, 2016 03:53 AM EDT

The intense vaccination efforts of different health organizations in America have finally paid off as the World Health Organization finally announced the whole region, from Canada to Chile, to be free from Measles.

"Today we say bye-bye to the indigenous transmission of measles," said Carissa Etienne, director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the Americas arm of WHO, in a report from NBC News. "We celebrate this historic day in which the scourge has been eliminated."

The announcement was made after the PAHO confirmed no new endemic cases of the highly contagious disease in the last three years. The last known outbreak of measles in the Americas occurred in Valenzuela in 2002.

Measles is not the first vaccine-preventable disease to be eliminated in the Americas. In 1971, smallpox was eliminated in the Americas. This was followed by the elimination of polio in 1994 and rubella in 2015.

Before the mass vaccination efforts against measles begun in the 1980s, nearly 2.6 million people were killed by the disease every year. Measles is one of the most contagious diseases that affect primarily children. It can be transmitted by airborne droplets through direct contact with secretions from the nose, mouth and throat of infected individuals.

People suffering from measles can present fever, runny nose, cough, red eyes, sore throat and widespread rash. Measles could also lead to serious health complications, including blindness, encephalitis, severe diarrhea, pneumonia and in some cases even death.

United States have been declared free from Measles for a long time. However, travelers with measles continue to bring the disease into the country. In 2015, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a measles outbreak that was linked to an amusement park in California. CDC reported that the outbreak was brought by a traveler, who was infected by the disease overseas, and was caught by unvaccinated or under-vaccinated visitors of the park.

The 2015 outbreak only shows that measles might just be a "plane ride away" and that vaccination is really important. Children can receive vaccination against measles beginning at the age of one and booster shots at 18 months.

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