Bhutan, Maldives eliminate measles, India on the road to stopping new infection
Bhutan and Maldives have eliminated measles, a highly infectious disease that kills 134,000 persons, mostly children, worldwide each year.
The two countries have stopped measles virus transmission, with no indigenous case being reported in Maldives since 2009, and in Bhutan since 2012.
Measles is a vaccine-preventable disease caused by a virus from the paramyxovirus family and spreads through air and direct contact. It causes symptoms of high fever that lasts four to seven days, with a runny nose, a cough, watery eyes, and small white spots inside the cheeks in the initial stage. Usually two weeks after infection, a rash appears on the face and neck, from where it spreads to the hands and feet.
Measles kills 46,00 children in India, which has started a campaign to eliminate measles by 2020 by vaccinating all children ages 9 months to 15 years against the disease using the MR-VAC manufactured by the Serum Institute of India.
Children ages nine months and 15 months are vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella under India’s routine immunisation programme, but only 50-60% get the booster shot,which results in partial protection against infection. About 15% of vaccinated children do not develop immunity from the first dose, so unless all the children are fully immunised, an outbreak is likely.
Bhutan and Maldives launched their Expanded Program on Immunization in 1979 and 1976 respectively, and since then worked indefatigably to increase immunisation services and using mass vaccination campaigns to protect high-risk populations.
“Both countries achieved and maintained high coverage of measles vaccination, despite geographical challenges. They also established strong laboratory-supported surveillance for measles, and have conducted detailed case investigation and tracking, right up to the very last case,” said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director of WHO South-East Asia.
Though endemic measles virus transmission has stopped, risk of measles virus importation from neighbours such as India continues.
Nearly 107 million children were reached vaccinated worldwide between 2013 and 2016, which helped avert 620,000 measles deaths in 2016 alone.
WHO’s measles elimination and rubella-control strategy is based on four key approaches –95% vaccination coverage with two doses of measles and rubella vaccine through routine and supplementary immunisation; case-based surveillance; developing and maintaining an accredited measles and rubella laboratory network; and strengthening support for these strategies.
MEASLES: Vaccine Solution
• Measles is a leading cause of child deaths even though it can be stopped using a safe and cost-effective vaccine.
• In 2015, measles killed 134,200 people globally – 15 deaths every hour.
• Measles vaccination has led a 79% drop in measles deaths between 2000 and 2015 worldwide.
• Between 2000 and 2015, measles vaccination prevented an estimated 20.3 million deaths.
• In 2015, about 85% of the world’s children received one dose of measles vaccine by their first birthday through routine health services – up from 73% in 2000.
• In India. 90% children receive the first dose of MMR under the universal immunistaion programme, but only 50% receive the booster dose.
• MR-VAC is made by Serum Institute of India
Source: World Health Organisation