“We’re embarrassed”: US is close to losing measles-elimination status

(credit: Paramount/CBS)

There’s a “reasonable chance” that the US will soon lose its status as a country that has eliminated measles. That’s according to Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The World Health Organization considers a disease eliminated from a country or region if it has gone at least 12 months without continuous spread of said disease. (This is different from disease eradication, which is when a disease is completely stamped out globally. Humans have only managed to eradicate two diseases: smallpox and rinderpest, which infects cattle and other ruminants.)

The US triumphantly declared measles eliminated in 2000—after spending decades tenaciously working to promote widespread vaccination. (The CDC had originally hoped to have it eliminated by 1982.) And in 2016, the WHO declared measles eliminated from the Americas altogether. WHO’s Regional Office for the Americas (PAHO) celebrated the news with announcements titled, in part, “Bye, bye measles!”

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