President Oscar Arias and Health Minister María Luisa Avila have agreed to help the World Health Organization eradicate measles and rubella in Costa Rica.
Last week, they signed a document creating a National Committee of Experts that will meet with officials of the Panamerican Health Organization, a regional office of the WHO, to decide how to best eradicate the diseases here.
In 2003, WHO launched a global campaign to eradicate the two illnesses, including congenital rubella syndrome in infants, which can lead to blindness and mental retardation, by 2010.
“If we succeed, it will be the fourth disease eliminated – smallpox in 1973, polio in 1994 and measles transmission recently with a couple little pop-ups here and there,” Panamerican Health Organization spokesman Daniel Epstein said. “The special thing in Costa Rica is they’re conducting hearing screenings in infants, an early detection and intervention technique that detects congenital hearing loss.”
According to the Health Ministry, since 1999, there has been only one case of congenital rubella in the country.