Bhutan eliminates measles ahead of 2020 target

Bhutan has eliminated measles, becoming one of the first two countries in the WHO South-East Asia Region to have interrupted endemic measles virus transmission, ahead of the 2020 regional target.

The Maldives is the other country in the region that has eliminated the highly contagious infection, which remains a leading cause of deaths among young children worldwide.

Announcing the findings and conclusions of the WHO South-East Asia Regional Verification Commission for Measles Elimination and Rubella control, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, the Regional Director of WHO South-East Asia, commended the two countries for what she described as a “momentous public health achievement”.

“Bhutan and Maldives have demonstrated how a highly contagious virus like measles can be eliminated,” she was quoted saying.

The health ministry attributes the achievement to the various initiatives it took to get rid of the disease. “We introduced childhood immunization in 1985, and our measles immunization coverage is very good,” said Dr Ugen Dophu, the health secretary.

“According to WHO recommendation, at least 80 per cent of the children should be immunised. But Bhutan has achieved more than that. We have immunized 98 per cent,” added the health secretary.

Dr Ugen Dophu also said that the parents have played a big part. “They have been extremely cooperative in bringing their child for immunization,” he said.

He also shared that the health ministry has various plans and strategies in place to prevent future outbreaks. “The WHO has recommended the ministry to immunise all children and adults up to 40 years of age,” he said.

He said the mass measles immunization will be carried out this year with financial and technical support from the WHO.

Dr Ugen Dophu said the ministry has adequate experience in conducting such mass immunization campaigns. He also shared that the health screening systems are already in place at every entry points, and urged the people to follow the screening procedures.

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