UK is no longer "measles-free": after the disease returned in 2018, the WHO has moved

The World Health Organization has just revoked the UK as a "measles-free" country just two years after it succeeded. It is still too early to know the reasons why measles cases have multiplied by three in just one year, but the case of England is a reminder that measles does not stop growing throughout the world.

You can't let your guard down

Data: Public Health England and the Health Protection Agency archive

What does "measles free" mean? In general, WHO has a special way of expressing itself. In this case, the "elimination of measles" does not mean, as it might seem, that in that country you cannot get measles. In fact, in the UK in 2017 (while still measles-free) 284 people fell ill.

With this "free of endemic transmission" status, the WHO certifies three things: the absence of circulating measles, high vaccination coverage, and good identification systems. What happens is that when these three assumptions are made, measles can only be isolated cases and will, yes or yes, have a very limited extension.

An ephemeral success In this way, the United Kingdom reached the measles elimination status in 2017. But the thing went wrong in 2018 when the confirmed cases amounted to 991. In addition, and this is important, the same strain of the virus was detected (B3 Dublin) for more than 12 months between late 2017 and early 2018.

"Losing elimination status [for measles] is a clear reminder of how important it is for people who can get vaccinated. It provides an opportunity to raise awareness about the potential risks of measles, about the importance of vaccination and about reporting suspicious cases to limit further spread, "they explained from the Public Health Service of England.

And it is not an exaggeration because, in fact, group immunity is a determining factor for the control of the disease. In the case of the United Kingdom where measles has been vaccinated since 1968, "While coverage of the first dose in the United Kingdom reached the WHO target of 95% for children aged five, coverage of the second dose is 87.4% ".

As we can see in the illustration above, that extra 7% has an important effect on the possible spread of the disease and helps the virus to circulate through society, jumping from community to community, much more easily. With these data on the table, the WHO has been forced to withdraw the status of a measles-free country.

The situation in Spain. On the other hand, Spain has managed one more year to verify the elimination status of measles and rubella that it achieved, for the first time, in 2016 and 2015, respectively. This is so because, although there were 233 confirmed measles (and none of rubella) cases, they are imported or produced cases.

Image | Hello I M Nik

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