With all the gloom surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, here is one news that brings about much cheer.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the South-Asian nations of Sri Lanka and Maldives free of measles and rubella, making them the first two nations in the WHO South-East Asia region to eliminate the two diseases much before the 2023 deadline.
According to the WHO, “A country is verified as having eliminated measles and rubella when there is no evidence of endemic transmission of the measles and rubella viruses for over three years in the presence of a well performing surveillance system.”
Maldives reported its last endemic case of measles in 2009 and rubella in 2015. Meanwhile, the island nation of Sri Lanka reported its last endemic case of measles in May 2016 and rubella in March 2017.
This announcement was made at the fifth meeting of the South-East Asia Regional Verification Commission for Measles and Rubella Elimination, which was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Protecting all children against these killer and debilitating diseases is an important step in our endeavor to achieve healthier population and health for all,” said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Region, congratulating Maldives and Sri Lanka on their achievement and appreciating healthcare workers, governments, and communities who worked diligently and stopped successfully the spread of these diseases.
“Now more than ever, we must pull together to realize our vision of a Region in which no child suffers or dies from a disease as easily prevented as measles; where no pregnant woman loses her unborn baby due to a virus as avoidable as rubella; and where no neonate is born with a heart ailment or loss of hearing owing to a tragedy as needless as in-utero rubella infection,” Dr Khetrapal Singh said.
Other nations in the region to have become free of measles were Bhutan, DPR Korea, and Timor-Leste.
This is a wonderful news for the entire medical community and for the world. We hope that the entire world becomes free of measles and rubella soon!