India’s fight against Measles

Measles caused by the viral infection is a serious and highly contagious disease that can cause debilitating or fatal complications, including encephalitis, severe diarrhoea and dehydration, pneumonia, ear infections and permanent vision loss.

Rubella commonly known as German measles can lead to severe consequences during pregnancy. An infection just before conception and in early pregnancy may result in miscarriage, foetal death or congenital defects known as congenital rubella syndrome (CRS). A woman infected with the rubella virus early in pregnancy has a 90% chance of transmitting the virus to the foetus.

Status in India

  • India is administering the measles-rubella vaccine in its universal immunisation programme to tackle both measles and rubella. But India still has a long road ahead in eliminating the disease from the country.
  • As part of the global initiative, India has set a target to eliminate measles and control of rubella by 2020. Rubella control is achieved when a country reduces the number of rubella cases by 95% as compared to cases in 2008. Measles elimination tag is achieved if there are no new reported cases in the last three years.
  • India has reported 47,056 measles cases and 1,263 rubella cases between May 2018 and April 2019.

Sri Lankan Model

  • The island nation Sri Lanka has successively eliminated the disease from the country. Other countries in the Southeast Asia region which have eliminated the Measles are Bhutan, Maldives, DPR Korea and Timor-Leste.
  • The success of Sri Lanka is attributed to its persistent efforts to ensure maximum coverage with two doses of measles and rubella vaccines being provided in the childhood immunisation programme.
  • With the vaccination coverage at consistently high rates with over 95% with both the first and second doses provided to children under the routine immunisation programme.
  • In addition, mass vaccination campaigns with a measles-rubella vaccine have been held periodically to plug immunisation gaps.
  • Measles is a notified disease in the country.

Sri Lanka has also achieved rubella control, along with five other countries viz. Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Timor-Leste.

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