Dr. Ali S. Khan, dean of the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Public Health, headed to the airport Christmas Eve and spent his holiday supporting the measles outbreak response in Tonga at the request of the World Health Organization (WHO). UNMC is a member of the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN), a source of expert consultants for United Nations’ (UN) agencies.
A resurgence of measles cases has been seen in all WHO regions since 2017. In the Asia Pacific Region, outbreaks of measles have been reported from countries where measles has previously been eliminated (including Australia, Cambodia, Japan, New Zealand, Republic of Korea) and in endemic countries with high incidence rates (including Lao PDR, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam). In fact, measles has been spreading throughout the Pacific region, with outbreaks in Tonga, Fiji, the Philippines and New Zealand. Samoa, Tonga and Fiji have all declared states of emergency to tackle their 2019 measles outbreaks.
Samoa has particularly been hard hit. In 2013, 90 percent of infants in Samoa were receiving the measles-mumps-rubella, or MMR, vaccine around the time they turned a year old. But the rate gradually declined in the years that followed.
Since joining UNMC, Dr. Khan was deployed three times by GOARN, twice to Sierra Leone in 2015 to help eradicate the Ebola virus in that country and once to Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, to help fight an outbreak of diphtheria.Friday Letter Submission, Publish on January 10