The World Health Organisation (WHO) Tuesday declared that measles disease has been eradicated in the island nation of Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka’s achievement comes at a time when measles cases are increasing globally, said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO regional director. “The country’s success demonstrates its commitment, and the determination of its health workforce and parents to protect children against measles,” she said, congratulating the island nation.
The country reported its last case of measles caused by an indigenous virus in May 2016, the WHO said a statement.
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease transmitted via droplets from the nose, mouth or throat of infected persons. It remains an important cause of death among young children globally, despite the availability of a safe and effective vaccine.
Sri Lanka is the fourth country in the WHO South-East Asia Region, after Bhutan, Maldives, and Timor-Leste, to eliminate measles and control rubella. Last year, Sri Lanka achieved rubella control, along with five other countries – Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, and Timor-Leste.
According to the WHO, an independent verification committee had comprehensively studied Sri Lanka’s efforts towards eliminating the disease before declaring it as a ‘measles-free’ country.
Among the efforts was the provision of two doses of measles and rubella vaccines in the childhood immunisation programme and several mass vaccination campaigns.
“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,” the WHO said in its press release.
However, the risk of contracting measles from surrounding countries would, however, continue to remain, the global health body cautioned.