Measles – Elimination Achieved in Australia

WHO announces Australia’s Elimination of Measles 20 March 2014

Page last updated: 20 March 2014

On 20 March 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that measles elimination had been achieved by Australia, Macao (China), Mongolia and the Republic of Korea. These are the first countries or areas in the Western Pacific Region to receive this distinction.

Measles is a highly contagious and serious disease. Prior to widespread vaccination in 1980, globally, measles caused an estimated 2.6 million deaths each year.

The WHO has verified that Australia has no local strain of measles circulating in the community and that we have well-performing surveillance systems to rapidly detect and respond to measles cases.

This is a significant accomplishment for public health in Australia. Our National Immunisation Programme has played an essential role in this achievement by ensuring high levels of vaccination coverage for measles. High levels of immunity across the population make it difficult for the disease to spread from person to person.

The achievement of measles elimination does not mean the complete absence of the disease in Australia, as cases will still be imported by travelers from counties where the disease is prevalent. Due to its highly infectious nature, an imported case of measles may also lead to cases among individuals who are not immune to the disease and may sometimes result in small and usually localised outbreaks.

To maintain Australia’s elimination status, it is critical that our high levels of vaccination with two doses of measles vaccine are continued. Our surveillance systems will also need to remain sensitive to detect imported cases early so that appropriate control measures can be implemented.

Two doses of measles containing vaccine are recommended for all children given at 12 and (from 1 July 2013) 18 months of age. Measles containing vaccines are funded under the National Immunisation Programme and are safe and effective. People travelling to measles endemic regions should consider their measles immunisation status as part of their travel planning.

Further information regarding the WHO announcement of Australia’s measles elimination status and the National Immunisation Programme can be found at the following links.

WHO – Western Pacific Regional Office Measles Elimination Media Release (20 March 2014)

Immunise Australia

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