86% decline in measles cases brings Western Pacific Region closer than ever to measles elimination

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Measles cases are at an historic low in the Western Pacific Region and it’s making excellent progress towards eliminating the measles virus, according to the founding partners of the Measles & Rubella Initiative.

Efforts to reach more children with measles vaccine have rapidly reduced measles cases in the Region by 86 percent between 2008 and 2011. China, which accounts for 75 percent of the region’s population, has reported a 92 percent drop in cases as a result of its nationwide measles immunization effort.

These findings were confirmed at a recent meeting of the World Health Organization’s Western Pacific Region’s Technical Advisory Group (TAG) for immunization. The TAG found that 32 of the 37 countries and areas in the region might already be free of endemic measles.

“This year’s regional measles trends are equally encouraging, with cases down 69 percent from January to June 2012 compared to the same period in 2011,” said Dr. Stephen Cochi, Senior Advisor at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and a member of the TAG.  Regional measles surveillance data shows there were 16,431 cases from January – June of 2011 and just 5,150 in the same period of 2012.

“Countries in the Western Pacific Region are also building an impressive disease surveillance network to quickly identify measles cases and prevent outbreaks,” said Dr. Peter Strebel, Medical Officer at the World Health Organization. “This network includes laboratories that can identify different measles virus types and track spread of viruses between countries.”

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