Surveillance Systems and the Laboratory Network
Effective surveillance for measles includes investigation and laboratory testing of samples from all suspect measles cases. The Measles & Rubella Initiative builds upon the surveillance and laboratory system established by the Polio Eradication Initiative. By the end of 2010, 41 of the 47 priority countries for measles control had implemented case based surveillance with support from the Measles Initiative. Measles surveillance is integrated with other disease surveillance systems resulting in improvements in infrastructure, capacity building, and provision of needed personnel and outbreak response.
Given the overlap of the clinical presentations of measles with other fever-rash illnesses (e.g. rubella, Parvovirus B19, HHV-6 and dengue), it is critical that a laboratory investigation is carried out to confirm suspected cases as measles. Since 2000, the WHO Measles and Rubella Lab Network has tripled in size from 228 to 679 national and sub-national labs serving 164 countries.
Measles and rubella surveillance is an important tool for measuring the disease burden, studying morbidity and mortality trends, and detecting and responding to outbreaks in a timely manner. It also provides essential data to monitor progress, improve planning and help allocate health resources more efficiently. Surveillance and the laboratory network play a critical role in directing program activities.