To the list of woes brought on by Venezuela’s economic and political turmoil, add one more: a crippled national vaccination program has resulted in record-high numbers in cases of measles, diphtheria and other vaccine-preventable diseases — a growing public health crisis that now threatens the entire region.

Image/Robert Herriman
Image/Robert Herriman

A new study by investigators from the University of Florida’s Emerging Pathogens Institute and College of Public Health and Health Professions, together with an international group of collaborators from Europe and the Americas shows that the country’s public health system has collapsed, another victim of the unrest that has plagued the country for years. As a result, infectious diseases once under control there are beginning to run rampant and could spread quickly, said Dr. Glenn Morris, an author on the paper and director of the Emerging Pathogens Institute.

“Basic, childhood vaccines are a cornerstone of global public health efforts,” Morris said.  “However, vaccine preventable diseases can rapidly re-emerge when vaccination efforts falter, as we are currently seeing in Venezuela.”

The authors recommend that regional political leaders and public health authorities urge the Venezuelan government to accept humanitarian aid and to reestablish epidemiologic surveillance programs. This will allow neighboring countries to quell what will otherwise be an inevitable regional public health crisis.

Read more at the University of Florida

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