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WHO declares Sri Lanka measles free

WHO declares Sri Lanka measles free

COLOMBO – Sri Lanka has eliminated measles from the country, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said in a statement released in New Delhi.

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 program 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, the Maldives, Nepal and Timor-Leste.

With Sri Lanka’s recent achievement, five countries of the Region have now eliminated measles.

In 2017-18 Bhutan, the Maldives, DPR Korea and Timor-Leste eliminated measles. While measles is a major childhood killer disease, rubella causes irreversible deformities and disabilities in new-borns.

“The country’s success demonstrates its commitment, and the determination of its health workforce and parents to protect children against measles,” Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director WHO said.

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 immunization program 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 program,” the WHO has said.

However, the risk of contracting measles from surrounding countries would, however, continue to remain, the global health body cautioned.