An outbreak of measles in Beijing has infected 23 people and continues to spread across China in spite of a national effort to eradicate the infectious disease.
The Beijing Center for Disease Control said the outbreak began on January 22 in a downtown office building on Chaoyangmen Road in Dongcheng District. In response, 3,000 people have been vaccinated.
Despite a widespread vaccination program across China, measles outbreaks in the country tend to happen each year. In November 2006, China boldly vowed to eradicate measles by 2012. While that year marked a record low for reports of measles in China, the disease has made a huge comeback since then.
In the first five months of 2014, China reported almost 36,000 cases of measles, already surpassing the 2013 annual total of 27,646 cases. It’s also nearly six times more than the total in 2012.
However, with concerns over food safety still lingering, the public reacted with distrust to mass immunization drives in 2010, criticizing them for targeting children already covered instead of at-risk groups like migrant children.
Researchers from the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development says that’s one possible reason for the resurgence. “Migrant children have been at the forefront of China’s measles epidemic,” it said, noting the poor quality healthcare available to China’s migrants.
Cai Haodong, an expert in infectious diseases at Beijing Ditan Hospital, said: “The incidence of measles is likely to rise, mostly in adults, because China has such a large mobile population and many have missed their vaccinations.”
Another explanation may be that the vaccinations are not effective. Sayer Ji points to this study published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization, saying:
“The number of measles cases reported in the first 10 months of 2013 – 26,443 – was three times the number reported in the whole of 2012″. This is all the more odd considering that since 2009 “.. the first dose of measles-virus-containing vaccine has reached more than 90% of the target population”.
Other experts assert that China’s vaccines are safe to use. ”China has made many efforts to increase the safety and quality of its vaccines,” said Dr Lisa Cairns, head of the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) at WHO China.
Photo: China Daily