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Measles Outbreak Notified in Venezuela

Washington, D.C., March 27, 2006 (PAHO)—A measles outbreak in Venezuela, the first in four years, has been reported to the Pan American Health Organization. A total of 12 laboratory confirmed cases were notified by the Ministry of Health of Venezuela, 10 in Miranda and 2 in the capital district. Four other probable cases are being investigated.

The first measles case was reported in a 33-year-old airline pilot from Miranda who traveled to Madrid in February and became ill on his return. The case was confirmed as measles in a private clinic and resulted in an outbreak among direct contacts of the patient, including five children under 14 years of age and four adults over 30 years old. Four other possible cases are still being investigated by health authorities.

Venezuelan health authorities responded immediately with control measures, increased surveillance, case investigation, and vaccination in areas where the people affected by the outbreak live and work. So far, some 67,000 vaccines have been administered. Links have been established between health authorities, PAHO/WHO, Venezuelan medical societies and private clinics to disseminate information about the outbreak and control measures.

Since the goal of measles elimination was adopted in September 1994 by the countries of the Americas, measles incidence has decreased by more than 99 percent in the Americas. Transmission of the D6 measles virus genotype-which began in 1995 and caused large outbreaks in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti-was interrupted in September 2001. The subsequent transmission of the D9 measles virus genotype in Venezuela was interrupted in November 2002, 14 months after it had started. The previous Venezuelan outbreak was viewed as the last instance of widespread endemic transmission of the measles virus in the Americas.

Dr. Jon K. Andrus, chief of PAHO's Immunization Unit, said, "As long as measles eradication is not pursued globally, imported or import-related measles cases will continue to occur in the Americas. However, the experience in several countries shows that, when high coverage with measles-containing vaccine exists, reliable detection and aggressive follow-up of suspect cases will limit the consequences of measles virus importations."

So far in 2006, confirmed measles cases had also been reported from Mexico (22 cases), the United States (3 cases), and Canada (1 case).

PAHO, which works to improve health and raise living standards in all the countries of the Americas, was successful in eradicating polio from the Western Hemisphere in 1994.

For more information please contact , PAHO, Public Information, 202-974-3459.