According to data compiled by the World Health Organization (WHO) country office for the Union health ministry, the number of measles and rubella cases in Karnataka saw a significant surge, rising by nearly sevenfold between 2021-22 and 2022-23.
Explained in detail
The state of Karnataka witnessed a significant surge in the number of measles and rubella cases between May 2022 and April 2023 compared to the previous year. During this period, the reported cases skyrocketed from 451 to 3,098, highlighting a substantial increase in the incidence of these diseases. The disparity is particularly striking in the case of measles, as the count rose from 350 cases to 2,871. These statistics clearly demonstrate a significant escalation in the prevalence of measles and rubella within the region.
The immunization gap caused by the Covid pandemic and enhanced surveillance efforts during the past year. Movement restrictions and the healthcare system’s prioritization of Covid-related matters led to a situation where numerous children missed their regular vaccination schedules. This scenario contributed to the rise in cases observed.
In the previous year, Karnataka recorded only one combined outbreak of measles and rubella. However, in the following year, this number surged to a staggering 17 outbreaks, comprising two mixed outbreaks and 15 measles outbreaks. The World Health Organization (WHO) official states that in addition to the immunization gap, the increase in reported cases is attributed to Karnataka’s improved surveillance efforts since the previous year, in alignment with the Union government’s objective of eliminating measles by December 2023. Prior to these enhanced surveillance measures, the reported cases remained significantly lower due to limited monitoring.
Infectious diseases specialist Dr. John Paul explains that the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine is typically administered when the child reaches nine months of age. He further adds that many individuals are unaware that they can receive a two-course vaccination at any stage of their life if they missed the initial dose.
The data highlights a noticeable improvement in surveillance within Karnataka, evident by a high non-measles non-rubella (NMNR) discard rate, which represents the number of samples testing negative per lakh of population. However, when examining both the 2021-22 and 2022-23 data, it becomes apparent that Karnataka has the highest number of measles-rubella cases and outbreaks among all the southern states of India.
The reason behind this higher incidence is unclear, as it remains uncertain whether it is a result of an actual increase in cases within the state or simply a reflection of enhanced surveillance efforts.
Dr. Sudarshan, the Reproductive and Child Health Officer at BBMP, highlights the importance of heightened hospital and community surveillance. Additionally, he mentions the upcoming national MMR vaccination drive, which is anticipated to play a crucial role in advancing towards the objective of eliminating measles.