The world rejoiced in 2008, when it was announced that measles-related deaths had fallen by 78%. Finally, it seemed that one of the world’s most contagious diseases would be eradicated. However, the celebration would be short-lived. In the last few years, there have been increasing reports of measles cases in the US and around the world.
The measles is caused by an air-borne virus which develops quickly among people and children whose immune systems are still delicate. Children suffer from rashes and high fevers that weaken their immune system and leave them vulnerable to more serious diseases and complications such as pneumonia, encephalitis, and roseola.
Since January of this year, the Centers for Disease Control have released reports warning travelers to get immunized, yet these warnings have largely gone unheeded. Candice Burns Hoffman from the CDC said that the USA is undergoing, “the highest number of measles cases since 1996.” Most of these cases are the result of travelers returning from overseas where measles is becoming more prevalent. 156 cases of the measles have been reported to the CDC in the US; 87% of those cases are from returning travelers from abroad.
So how does the Red Cross help measles?
In 2001, the International Red Cross partnered with the World Health Organization, UNICEF, The United Nations Foundation, and The Centers for Disease Control in the Measles Initiative. The focus of this program is to eliminate measles in the developing world. In 2002, measles was declared inactive in most Western developed countries, and those countries were stewards to help eliminate measles through vaccinations in countries such as India, China, Liberia, Chad, Mali, and Indonesia.
The Red Cross is still supportive of this initiative; perhaps you will recall the Holiday Giving catalogue from this past Christmas. Inside the catalogue, the Measles Initiative promoted the mission of vaccinating children against the measles for $1 per child. This small donation provided a child with life saving inoculations against the measles, mumps, and rubella, as well as providing children with mosquito nets and vitamin A supplements to bolster efforts against contagious diseases.
Since 2001, the Measles Initiative has administered vaccines to more than 700 million people and consequently reduced measles deaths by 78% globally. But after the global economic collapse, funding and support for vaccinations of all kinds were strained. As a result, the measles began to spread again. Rebecca Martin, a spokesperson for the World Health Organization’s office in Copenhagen, explained to the Associated Press in April, “There’s been a buildup of children who have not been immunized over the years. It’s almost like a threshold. When you have enough people who have not been immunized, then outbreaks can occur.”
Between 2000 and 2008, an estimated 4.3 million deaths were prevented through programs developed by the Measles Initiative. With your help, the Red Cross can continue to lead the global fight against measles. For more information or donate to the cause, please the Measles Initiative at http://measlesinitiative.org/