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Sunday, May 19, 2013

American Red Cross in the Fight to Eliminate “Invisible Monster”

Measles & Rubella Initiative Brings World Collaboration
By Mary (Jacoby) Hastings

A child in Madagascar describes it as an “invisible monster” that once took over his village and not everyone was lucky enough to be treated by a doctor. He believes that the “miracle” vaccine that came to his village can be shared with people everywhere as he looks to the day when he can “say goodbye to the last ‘measle’ on earth.”

Every day 15 children die from complications of Measles and Rubella around the world; but a  movement is in progress to stop and hopefully eliminate these debilitating illnesses, which are preventable.  The Measles & Rubella Initiative (http://www.measlesrubellainitiative.org/) is a global partnership committed to ensuring no child dies from measles or is born with congenital rubella syndrome. Founded originally as the Measles Initiative in 2001, it’s led by the American Red Cross, the United Nations Foundation, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF and the World Health Organization.

Although measles was eliminated from the Western Hemisphere in 2002 and endemic rubella has not been detected in the Americas since 2009, outbreaks can occur when unvaccinated residents are exposed to infected people, mostly through international travel.

Measles does not cause death directly, but it weakens the immune system and opens the door to secondary health problems, such as pneumonia, blindness, diarrhea, and encephalitis. Approximately 30 percent of reported measles cases have one or more complications.

Rubella is another disease the Measles & Rubella Initiative is addressing. Rubella is generally a mild disease but can have serious consequences for pregnant women and their children. If infected with rubella in the first trimester women have a very high risk of giving birth to a child with Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS). CRS often presents in multiple birth defects including as heart problems, deafness and blindness.

With intervention by the Measles & Rubella Initiative and commitment from governments around the world, global measles deaths worldwide fell by 74 percent between 2000 and 2010, from an estimated 535,000 to 139,300. You can help the Initiative reach its goal of completely eliminating Measles and Rubella with any size donation. To learn more about donating to save lives, visit https://www.redcross.org/donate/.

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