The Americas just officially eliminated measles

Measles has been officially eliminated in the Americas, the World Health Organisation said Tuesday.

Pan American Health Organisation/WHO Director Carissa F. Etienne called the announcement historic.

“It is the result of a commitment made more than two decades ago, in 1994, when the countries of the Americas pledged to end measles circulation by the turn of the 21st century,” she said in a statement.

Measles is a vaccine-preventable disease that’s still common in other parts of the world. The majority of people who get infected haven’t received the vaccine. Its symptoms usually include high fever, a cough, red, watery eyes, running nose, and after a few days, a rash. It can also lead to more serious complications including pneumonia, blindness, and death.

Elimination of a disease means it’s no longer native to or continuously circulating in a region, but cases could still exist because of infected people travelling from other countries. And especially when there are pockets of unvaccinated people, such imported cases can still lead to isolated outbreaks.

Measles has been eliminated in the US since 2000, even though cases have popped up since, notably in California, where there was an outbreak in early 2015. In 2015, there were 189 cases of measles total, and in 2016, there have been only 54 so far, according to the CDC.

Thanks to successful vaccination campaigns, the Americas have also been able to eliminate smallpox, polio, and rubella, along with congenital rubella syndrome.

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