It’s a global first for the Americas. The region which includes North, South, and Central America has eliminated measles.
The World Health Organization made the declaration this week, saying no home-grown cases of the disease have been reported in the Americas in at least three years.
But Dr. Glen Armstrong, a professor of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Calgary tells News Talk 770 it doesn’t mean we’ll never see cases here.
“We sometimes have imported cases of measles coming in when travellers go to those regions that have not been immunized, and then bring the measles back, and then it can spread to unimmunized people back in say, North America.”
Armstrong says we can’t become complacent now about measles, and must continue to maintain high vaccination rates.
“If we keep up our vaccination programs and actually expand those programs to try and increase the vaccination rate in those regions of the world where measles is still endemic, then we have a real opportunity to eliminate measles from the face of the planet just like we have eliminated small pox.”
Armstrong says the measles immunization rate in Alberta is at or above 80 per cent which is the threshold health officials aim for. But he adds there are some pockets of southern Alberta where that rate has fallen below 80 per cent.
Measles is still common in other parts of the world, such as southeast Asia and 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.