Since its inception, the CDC has played a major role in advancing the health security in dozens of countries by improving response times to the outbreaks of several vaccine-preventable diseases. Furthermore, its partnerships with other countries and philanthropic organizations have not only stopped outbreaks, but also improved disease surveillance, laboratory science, emergency operations, and health systems overall. This along with the significant progress made towards the eradication of polio gives us plenty of reasons to celebrate, but that celebration would be premature.
Between the anticipation of polio eradication in the near future and the response to emerging diseases like Zika, measles has become a forgotten, but formidable foe. Approximately 134,200 children worldwide die from this disease each year, despite the availability of a vaccine that costs a mere $0.25 a dose. Additionally, a complication from measles, known as subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE), recently recognized as more common than previously thought, is 100% fatal, but is preventable with timely vaccination. The use of vaccines have already led to a 79% reduction in measles-related deaths globally, preventing more than 20 million deaths between 2000 and 2015. Even more exciting is the fact that it IS possible to eliminate measles! Just last month the region of the Americas became the first in the world to be declared free of measles, making it the fourth vaccine-preventable disease eliminated in the Americas. However, until measles is eliminated in all regions, the threat of measles virus importations causing outbreaks will remain. So what are the challenges when it comes to measles elimination?