Measles Surge: Country on alert to manage post-pandemic crisis

The recent spurt in measles cases has emerged as a subject of concern for India, which made remarkable progress in its elimination between 2017 and 2020.

Some states – Maharashtra, Gujarat, Kerala, and Jharkhand – last month reported a surge in measles cases.

The country has adopted the National Strategic Plan for Achieving and Sustaining Measles and Rubella Elimination and has vaccinated over 324 million children between 2017 and 2020 through the MR (Measles-Rubella) vaccination campaign. And despite the challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic that overburdened health systems, India made remarkable progress in the elimination of MR.

On the recent spurt, Tarun Bhatnagar, Senior Scientist, ICMR, and National Institute of Epidemiology, said, “The measles outbreak has been seen usually in the places where the routine vaccine coverage has been low. Secondly, during the Covid time, the people migrated from one place to other which is also a reason for this surge.”

“We have observed that in general, during the last two-three years – during the Covid time, overall there were problems with the vaccination… Some children may have missed their vaccines somehow due to Covid related disruption of the service. Or, they may have not got the vaccine because they were moving – especially the migrants,” the ICMR scientist told IANS.

On the question of whether the measles epidemic is returning to India, Bhatnagar said, “I don’t think there is any specific issue with the return of measles or any changes in mutation in the viruses.” He said that generally, it is a vaccination coverage issue.

Bhatnagar added that in the post-pandemic era, nothing has been in any ecosystem of the virus. “It is not that it has happened because of Covid, it was even present before Covid.” The present surge was seen in places where there was poor vaccination coverage, and because of malnutrition especially in urban slum areas, he asserted.

The Union Health Ministry has deputed high-level multi-disciplinary three-member teams to Ranchi (Jharkhand), Ahmedabad (Gujarat), and Malappuram (Kerala) to take stock of the upsurge in measles cases.

The teams will also undertake field visits to investigate the outbreak and assist the state Health Departments in terms of public health measures, management guidelines, and protocols to manage the increasing cases. It will coordinate with states to ensure active case searches.

20221218-100010

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