Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, 11 November 2016 – The Caribbean, and countries of the Americas, are first in the world to be declared free of local measles transmission.
This historic announcement was recently made by the International Expert Committee for Documenting and Verifying Measles, Rubella, and Congenital Rubella Syndrome Elimination in the Americas at the 55th Directing Council of the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO).
This means that children in the Caribbean are now less likely to be affected by measles, once they are vaccinated. Measles affects mostly children and is one of the most contagious diseases.
However, widespread use of the vaccine has led to a great reduction in measles cases in the Region.
“No local measles cases have been reported in the Caribbean Region since 1991,” stated Dr. C. James Hospedales, Executive Director, Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA). He warned however, that “we cannot become complacent, as measles still circulates in other parts of the world.” He went on to say “due to the high intensity of international travel related to the large tourism sector, the Caribbean region remains at high risk for the importation of measles and rubella cases.”
Between 1971 and 1979, more than 100,000 deaths in the Americas were attributable to the disease. Measles is transmitted by airborne droplets or via direct contact with secretions from the nose, mouth, and throat of infected individuals. It can cause serious complications including blindness, severe diarrhea, ear infections and pneumonia, particularly in children with nutritional problems.
Measles is the fifth vaccine-preventable disease to be eliminated from the Caribbean and countries of the Americas, after the regional eradication of endemic smallpox in 1971, polio in 1994, and rubella and congenital rubella syndrome in 2015.