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Measles Initiative Statement on recent U.S. outbreaks


WASHINGTON — Measles, a highly contagious viral disease, can result in serious complications and death. As a result of a successful vaccination program, measles was eliminated in the Americas in 2002. However, from January through July 2008, 131 cases have been reported in the United States. This is more cases than have been reported through July in any year since 1996. Nearly all of the cases (89%) were imported or associated with the importation of measles from other countries. For example, outbreaks in Pima County, AZ, and San Diego, CA, were sparked by importations from Switzerland. As international travel continues to surge, the threat to children within the U.S. and other developed countries remains high.

In developing countries, malnutrition and a lack of access to health services means that measles is often deadly. Worldwide, measles still infects nearly 18 million children, killing an estimated 242,000 each year. That is 600 children who die each day from this disease.

The Measles Initiative – a partnership led by the American Red Cross, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, United Nations Foundation, UNICEF, and the World Health Organization – is working to reduce measles deaths by 90% worldwide by 2010 (compared to 2000).

Following is a statement by the Measles Initiative partnership:

“Measles knows no borders, but can be prevented for less than one dollar per child in a developing country. We must be steadfast in our efforts to reduce measles cases globally. As long as children remain unvaccinated they are at risk. It is essential that all children – regardless of where they are born – have the opportunity to be vaccinated against measles, so that they can grow up healthier and without fear of this highly contagious, but entirely preventable disease.”

For more information about global efforts to reduce measles, please contact the following:

Michael Oko or Christy Feig, American Red Cross, Washington, DC, +1 202 303 5551
Steven Stewart, CDC, Atlanta, +1 404 639 8327
Brian Hansford, UNICEF, New York, +1 212 326 7269
Amy DiElsi, UN Foundation, Washington, DC, +1 202 419 3230
Hayatee Hasan, WHO, Geneva, +41 22 791 2103


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