Measles – The epidemiology of elimination
Tremendous progress has been made globally to reduce the contribution of measles to the burden of childhood deaths and measles cases have dramatically decreased with increased two dose measles-containing vaccine coverage. As a result the Global Vaccine Action Plan, endorsed by the World Health Assembly, has targeted measles elimination in at least five of the six World Health Organisation Regions by 2020. This is an ambitious goal, since measles control requires the highest immunisation coverage of any vaccine preventable disease, which means that the health system must be able to reach every community. Further, while measles remains endemic in any country, importations will result in local transmission and outbreaks in countries and Regions that have interrupted local endemic measles circulation.
One of the lines of evidence that countries and Regions must address to confirm measles elimination is a detailed description of measles epidemiology over an extended period. This information is incredibly valuable as predictable epidemiological patterns emerge as measles elimination is approached and achieved. These critical features, including the source, size and duration of outbreaks, the seasonality and age-distribution of cases, genotyping pointers and effective reproduction rate estimates, are discussed with illustrative examples from the Region of the Americas, which eliminated measles in 2002, and the Western Pacific Region, which has established a Regional Verification Commission to review progress towards elimination in all member countries.
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