Measles Now Endemic in Venezuela
Endemic transmission of the measles virus has now been re-established in Venezuela, reported the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) in a press release.
As of August 20, 2018, Venezuela reported 3,545 confirmed cases of measles, including 62 deaths.
Additionally, 10 countries in South America besides Venezuela have reported 1,459 confirmed cases of measles and 6 deaths since the outbreak in Venezuela began.
A country is no longer considered to be measles free when the same type of virus has been circulating for more than 12 continuous months, says the PAHO.
A majority of countries in the Americas Region reported their last endemic cases more than 18 years ago.
The recurrence of endemic circulation of measles virus, as well as current outbreaks, is evidence of existing gaps in vaccination coverage, which must be urgently addressed.
In July 2017, Venezuela reported the first cases of this current measles outbreak and confirmed that this outbreak was due to a virus strain that was originally reported in Asia and later in Europe.
To stop further spread of measles throughout the region, the Director of PAHO, Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, has urged all countries to rapidly increase vaccination coverage.
"It is vital that we continue vaccinating in order to reach more than 95% of our children everywhere," said Dr. Etienne.
In the Americas, coverage rates for the 1st dose of measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine are currently less than 95%.
In 2016, the Region of the Americas became the first in the world to obtain the measles elimination certification, following years of concerted efforts to vaccinate children.
To prepare USA citizens prior to visiting Venezuela, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a Travel Alert Level 3 on May 17th.
This Level 3 Alert means USA citizens should avoid visiting Venezuela.
This CDC alert says Venezuela is experiencing outbreaks of infectious diseases, and adequate health care is currently not available in most of the country.
Which means if you must travel to Venezuela, take pre-trip protections, such as vaccinations.
The CDC recommends all travelers to Venezuela be up to date on all recommended vaccines, such as the Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis (DTaP) and Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccine.
The CDC says to make an appointment with a travel vaccine specialist at least 4 to 6 weeks before departure to enable the immunization process to be completed.
Travel vaccine specialist can be contacted at this Vax-Before-Travel link.
And, the CDC recommends all travelers take medicine to prevent malaria.