The recent Chinese measles outbreak in Vietnam and the Philippines has hindered the tourism industry and caused concern in neighboring countries. Though measles is a preventable disease, the access to vaccines is limited in certain areas.
China alone accounts for more than one third of all globally reported measles cases. The Asia-Pacific region accounts for nearly two-thirds of all cases. While rare in developed countries, many of those now reported are imported.
Though China has seen an overall decrease in the number of annual cases in the past decade, there has been a recent spike. Partially to blame are the recent waves of immigration and the increasing numbers of migrant workers. Though China has strengthened efforts to get younger generations immunized, many of the older generations have not received the measles vaccination. The migrant workers act as vectors to move the virus from one town to another. Particularly in rural areas, which are less likely to have access to vaccinations, the introduction of an infected migrant worker can help spread the disease.
The children of migrant workers are among the most vulnerable. The healthcare of migrants is often sub-par and many doctors who practice on them are unlicensed physicians who don’t practice immunization.
Further, the cities packed from recent waves of immigration have fostered the spread of the virus. Because measles is easily communicable among non-immunized people, the introduction of the disease in a city with a few million can be disastrous.
Although China has increased efforts for widespread vaccinations, there are still populations who remain at risk. The healthcare of the elderly who weren’t originally vaccinated, as well as that for migrant workers, are being reexamined. The United Nations has encouraged vaccination promotion through specialized clinics, but one thing is for sure: with the migrant population skyrocketing, something must be done.
– Kristin Ronzi