Recent Measles Outbreaks in U.S., Europe Underline Global Need to Eliminate the Disease Worldwide

Washington, D.C.

February 28, 2011


Alexis Krieg

In light of the measles alert issued by the D.C. Health Department, reports of measles outbreaks in four U.S. airports last week, and recent outbreaks in Geneva, Switzerland and the surrounding areas of France, and Oslo, Norway, the United Nations Foundation is offering media the opportunity for a briefing with Andrea Gay, Executive Director of Children’s Health at the UN Foundation, for her perspective and insight on this issue.

Health authorities in the U.S. are working to prevent a measles outbreak after an infected passenger landed in Washington, DC, Denver, Colorado, and Albuquerque, New Mexico on February 22, from the United Kingdom. After it was disclosed that the New Mexico resident spent two days in Washington, D.C., health officials issued a measles alert to people potentially exposed to measles.

In an unrelated incident, another passenger from France arrived in Boston, Massachusetts earlier this month and became sick with measles. About 180 people had to be vaccinated to help contain the disease from spreading. Also, more than 2000 cases of measles have been reported in Geneva and the surrounding areas of France already this year and an outbreak continues in Oslo, with more than 11 cases of measles reported.

“Measles is highly contagious and can spread rapidly from person to person,” said Andrea Gay. “These outbreaks highlight the importance of vaccinating every child against measles to eliminate the disease worldwide.”

The Measles Initiative was founded in 2001 to decrease global measles mortality, at a time when more than 750,000 children were dying of measles annually. Today, the Initiative has supported the vaccination of more than 700 million children helping to reduce measles deaths by 78% globally (compared to 2000), but a funding gap of $59 million for 2010 must be met to prevent a resurgence of measles deaths globally. It costs less than $1 to vaccinate a child against measles. Until families everywhere have the opportunity to immunize their children against measles, children will be under threat from the disease and many more will risk sickness or death.

WHO:  Andrea Gay, Executive Director of Children’s Health at the United Nations Foundation

Ms. Gay oversees projects to improve the survival and health of children in developing countries, particularly those less than 5 years of age, and has recently returned from measles vaccination campaigns, supported by the Measles Initiative, in Nigeria and Cambodia. Visit her full profile here.

To schedule interviews, please contact Eric Porterfield at or 202-496-6381

To learn more about measles and the work of the UN Foundation, visit


About the United Nations Foundation
The United Nations Foundation, a public charity, was created in 1998 with entrepreneur and philanthropist Ted Turner’s historic $1 billion gift to support UN causes and activities. We build and implement public/private partnerships to address the world’s most pressing problems, and work to broaden support for the UN through advocacy and public outreach.  Through our campaigns and partnerships, we connect people, ideas, and resources to help the UN solve global problems. These campaigns focus on reducing child mortality, empowering women and girls, creating a new energy future, securing peace and human rights, and promoting technology innovation to improve health outcomes. These solutions are helping the UN advance the eight global targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). For more information, visit