Measles ‘red flag’ raised in Luzon, Visayas

February 07, 2019
Rodrigo Duterte

Duterte orders ‘vigorous’ campaign for immunization

THE Department of Health (DoH) yesterday announced it is “expanding” the measles alert to other regions in Luzon and the Visayas after declaring a measles outbreak in the National Capital Region (NCR).

“We are expanding the outbreak from Metro Manila to the other regions as cases have increased in the past weeks and to strengthen surveillance of new cases and alert mothers and caregivers to be more vigilant,” Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said.

Meanwhile, President Rodrigo Duterte has directed a “vigorous” information campaign to encourage the public to avail of child immunization program.

Duterte gave the directive during the 34th Cabinet meeting in Malacañang on Wednesday.

“The Department of Health’s immunization program was likewise tackled. The President ordered a vigorous campaign to promote the complete immunization for children,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said.

The measles cases jumped 550 percent from January 1 to February 6 in Metro Manila compared to the same period last year. Of these cases, 55 deaths have been confirmed in January.  Cities with the most number of cases include Manila, Caloocan, Marikina, Pasig, Navotas, Parañaque, Taguig, Pasay and Malabon. Hundreds of cases were also reported in Central Luzon.

Duterte also expressed concern over the drop in immunization coverage in from an average of 70 percent in the past years to 40 percent in 2018 as public apprehension over the alleged Dengvaxia vaccine-linked deaths. 

As of January 26, the DoH Epidemiology Bureau reported that the number of measles cases in other regions -- Ilocos region, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, CALABARZON, MIMAROPA, and Bicol -- have shown an increasing trend.

Validated data from CALABARZON was 575 cases with nine deaths (CFR 2%) (2,538% an increase  compared to 21 cases in 2018); NCR was 441 with five deaths (CFR 1%) (1,125% increase  compared to 36 cases in 2018); Region 3 was 192 cases with four deaths (CFR 2%) (500% increase compared to 32 cases in 2018); Region 6 with 104 cases and three deaths (CFR 3%) (550% increase compared to 16 cases in 2018) ; and Region 7 with 71 cases with one death (CFR 1%) (3,450% increase compared to 2 cases in 2018).

Other regions reported 70 cases with no deaths for MIMAROPA (3,400% increase compared to 2 cases in 2018); Region 1 with 64 cases with two deaths (CFR 3%) (220% increase compared to 20 cases in 2018), Region 10 with 60 cases with no deaths reported (4% decrease compared to 63 cases in 2018 ); Region 8 with 54 cases and one death (2% CFR) (5,300% increase compared to one case in 2018), Region 12 with 43 cases with no deaths (34% decrease compared to 66 cases in 2018). 

The DoH said these regions should step up their response against this highly communicable disease to ensure that preventive measures play a vital role in preventing the spread of the disease.

Measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by a virus. It is transferred from person-to-person by sneezing, coughing, and close personal contact. Its symptoms include cough, runny nose, red eyes/conjunctivitis, fever, skin rashes lasting for over three days.

The disease’s complications included diarrhea, middle ear infection, pneumonia (infection of the lungs), encephalitis (swelling of the brain), malnutrition, blindness which may lead to death.

“Supportive measures like building the nutritional status of the sick person and increasing oral rehydration are important measures to increase body resistance and replace lost body fluids caused by coughing, diarrhea, and perspiration,” said Duque, adding that immunization and vitamin A supplementation of nine-month old children and unvaccinated individuals are the best defenses against measles.

Last week, Duterte urged parents to have their children vaccinated, saying it was necessary to keep a person healthy.

With Efren Montano