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Measles cases rise sharply

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A health worker administers a measles vaccination to children in Phnom Penh in 2016. Heng Chivoan

Measles cases rise sharply

Cambodia has recorded 341 measles cases in the first four months of this year, a significant increase from just 44 cases in the same period last year.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) confirmed the total on Monday and reported that 65 per cent of those infected had not been vaccinated.

“During the pandemic, it is more important than ever to maintain routine immunisation services to protect children and the community or face the risk of an increase in vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks like measles,” said WHO Representative to Cambodia Dr Li Ailan.

Measles has surged globally in recent years. Although Cambodia received its measles elimination status in 2015, it is not immune from a resurgence, it said.

WHO reports that most Cambodians are immunised at health centres and hospitals, which conduct routine immunisations according to regular schedules.

Still, along with measles, Cambodia also faces rubella and pertussis outbreaks. Officials warn that children must be immunised from these diseases to avoid additional strain on the public health system during the pandemic.

The Cambodia Ministry of Health established the National Immunisation Programme (NIP) to expand Cambodia’s immunisation services in 2000.

The programme promotes the wellbeing of all Cambodians by controlling, eliminating or eradicating targeted vaccine-preventable diseases.

NIP, WHO, UNICEF and other partners work together closely to coordinate the programme’s immunisation activities.

Those organisations and other partners also visit communities to conduct catch-up vaccinations and reach children that are less likely to visit health centres and hospitals, such as in Cham and Vietnamese communities.

The teams also advise the communities to learn about how to protect themselves from Covid-19, said the WHO.

The Ministry of Health’s NIP manager Ork Vichit declined to comment on Tuesday, referring questions to ministry spokesperson Or Vandine and Ly Sovann. But the two officials did not respond to The Post by press time.

Measles is highly contagious and predominantly responsible for acute respiratory diseases.

WHO said most who die from measles are children under the age of five.

From 2000 to 2018, the vaccine against measles saved the lives of more than 23 million people throughout the world, it said.

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