The following update on the Measles outbreak in the US this week is by Athalia Christie, Sr. Technical Advisor for American Red Cross.
This week, we were remindedthat although measles was eliminated from the Americas in 2002, the unvaccinated are still at risk.
Six people in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania contracted the highly-contagious disease from an infected Indian traveler. An adult male, who contracted measles during a visit to China, spread the disease to at least one adult and an infant in Montgomery County, Maryland upon his return.
Parents, living in the United States, have a choice whether to vaccinate their children. What they fail to realize is that until families everywhere have the opportunity to immunize their children, ours will face the threat of contracting this preventable disease.
If an unvaccinated person travels to a country where measles is still endemic or comes in contact with an infected visitor from such a country, they may be exposed to measles and become ill.
The Measles Initiative is a partnership – led by the American Red Cross, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United Nations Foundation, UNICEF and the World Health Organization – committed to addressing this issue. The first step is to reduce measles deaths globally by 90 percent (between 2000 and 2010), which can be achieved by hosting mass vaccination campaigns and strengthening immunization services.
We make the safe and effective measles vaccine available in many developing countries where poverty, poor health systems and a lack of information make it difficult for families to secure preventative medical care.
The work is carried out by local health workers and Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers who create temporary vaccination posts, visit schools and travel door-to-door, ensuring that every child receives a measles vaccination.
Since 2001, the Measles Initiative has supported immunization campaigns in more than 60 countries, vaccinating more than 600 million children. Through these efforts, global measles mortality was reduced by 74 percent (2000-2007).
But as this week’s outbreaks show, the impressive global gains are not enough.