A disease that can cause birth defects, including blindness, deafness, and congenital heart defects, has been wiped out in the Americas.

After more than 250 million teens and adults received shots in an aggressive, ten year campaign, vaccination programs using the MMR vaccine in 32 countries have officially been credited with eliminating Rubella in the region that includes North and South America and the Caribbean.

Rubella, also called “German measles,” usually causes only mild symptoms, but pregnant women who catch it can miscarry, and their children may suffer a wide range of birth defects.vaccine_drawing_blood-GatesFoundation-CC

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Aside from travelers coming in from outside the 32 countries, there have been no cases of rubella reported in the Americas since 2009. That led the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and World Health Organization (WHO) to declare the disease eradicated in the region stretching from Greenland to the edges of Antarctica.

Rubella is only the third vaccine-preventable disease eliminated from the Americas. Smallpox was eradicated in 1971 and polio in 1994.

Measles, mumps and rubella are all preventable with the same MMR vaccine. Each shot costs a little over a dollar. PAHO’s next target is eliminating measles.

“The fight against rubella has taken more than 15 years, but it has paid off with what I believe will be one of the most important Pan American public health achievements of the 21st century,” said PAHO/WHO Director Carissa Etienne. “Now it’s time to roll up our sleeves and finish the job of eliminating measles as well.”

(READ more at PAHO/WHO’s website)

Photo by PAHO/WHO, CC license

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