The World Health Organization today announced Sri Lanka has eliminated measles, interrupting transmission of the indigenous virus that causes the killer childhood disease.
said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director WHO South-East Asia, congratulating the island nation.
An independent verification committee reviewed in detail all data and ongoing efforts for measles elimination in the island nation and concluded that Sri Lanka has stopped transmission of indigenous measles virus. The country reported its last case of measles caused by an indigenous virus in May 2016. Sporadic cases, reported in the last three years have all been importations that were quickly detected, investigated and rapidly responded to.
Sri Lanka’s success follows its persistent efforts to ensure maximum coverage with two doses of measles and rubella vaccines being provided in the childhood immunisation programme. The vaccination coverage in the country has been consistently high – over 95% with both the first and second dose of measles and rubella vaccine provided to children under the routine immunization programme. Additionally, mass vaccination campaigns with a measles-rubella vaccine have been held periodically to plug the immunization gaps, the last one in 2014.
The country has a strong surveillance system and all vaccine-preventable diseases are an integral part of the communicable disease surveillance system. Measles is a notifiable disease in the country.
“The risk of importations of measles virus from countries near and far will remain, specially from those that have significant population movement with Sri Lanka. Further strengthening immunity of the vulnerable population, capacities to detect and readiness to respond to measles virus both at the national and sub-national levels, would be the key to the country’s continued measles-free status in the coming years,” the Regional Director said. She announced Sri Lanka’s measles-free achievement at the South-East Asia Regional Immunisation Technical Advisory group meeting here.
Sri Lanka is the fourth country in WHO South-East Asia Region, after Bhutan, Maldives and Timor-Leste, to eliminate measles and control rubella, a flagship priority programme of WHO in the Region, ahead of the 2020 regional target. Last year Sri Lanka achieved rubella control, along with five other countries - Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Timor-Leste.