Countries in the Western Pacific Region push for measles elimination
HANOI, 26 September 2012 - The Western Pacific Region could soon become the second of the six regions of the World Health Organization (WHO) to eliminate measles.
"We have a chance to eliminate a terrible, yet preventable disease from our Region," Dr Shin, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, told the Regional Committee for the Western Pacific.
“We must finish the job. Measles virus continues to circulate in just a few countries in the Region. It carries the potential to make children extremely ill and even cause deaths."
Endemic measles virus transmission has likely been stopped in 32 of the Region's 37 countries and areas. To eliminate the disease, countries must now intensify their efforts to immunize all children, particularly those in harder-to-reach communities and remote areas.
Measles incidence in the Region declined to a record 12 cases per million in 2011 from 82 cases per million in 2008.
Measles is one of the most infectious viruses known to humankind and causes illness in communities that are not protected with the inexpensive, effective measles vaccine, which is a staple of routine immunization programmes.
"Where there are measles cases, there are gaps in health service delivery to communities," Dr Shin told the Regional Committee meeting in Hanoi to review WHO's work in the Region and set future health directions. “Therefore measles elimination is not just about one disease. It is in fact urging us to reach every community with improved health services. This is the heart of equity."
Countries with sustained measles transmission are developing intensified plans of action for 2012 and beyond to interrupt residual measles transmission as soon as possible. Countries that have stopped transmission continue to be at risk of outbreaks due to importations from other countries.
"Measles surveillance systems should be strengthened so that every country can rapidly detect and effectively respond to measles outbreaks, whatever its origin," Dr Shin said.
The Western Pacific Regional Verification Commission for Measles Elimination has been established and is in process of finalizing verification mechanism for measles elimination. Dr Shin has requested Member States to establish independent national verification processes.
For more information or request to interview, please contact:
Ms Marilu Lingad
Mobile (Viet Nam):+84 (0)1272643638
Mobile (Philippines): +63 908 891 4532
Mr Timothy O'Leary
Mobile (Viet Nam): +84 (0)1252093845
Mobile (Philippines): +63 908 886 8738