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  • Rise of Measles Cases Is Alarming. Please Have Your 1-Year-Old Vaccinated

    The vaccine for measles also protects your child against mumps and rubella.
    by Rachel Perez .
Rise of Measles Cases Is Alarming. Please Have Your 1-Year-Old Vaccinated
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  • The number of measles cases in 2018 alone is alarming, and we are pleading with parents to please vaccinate your child.

    Data from the National Epidemiology Center (NEC) of the Department of Health (DOH) shows 17,298 reported measles cases have been reported in the Philippines from January to November 2018 alone. That's a 367% spike from only 3,706 reported cases in the same period in 2017.

    There should be no reason to have that many cases because measles can be prevented easily by getting children vaccinated. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), young kids who have not received the vaccine are at the highest risk of getting measles and its possible complications.

    One of the comments on the Facebook post above wondered, "Isn't MMR (Measles-Mumps-Rubella) vaccine required for children?"

    WHO replied, "We don’t have the official data on immunization coverage yet but initial data indicate that lesser children are vaccinated this year for the routine immunization program. The vaccines are available at the health centers. Lower immunization coverage could be based on various factors including increased hesitancy and access issues."


    Another question raised: which areas in the Philippines recorded an increase of measles? According to WHO, "Data from the DOH’s Epidemiology Bureau show that all regions in the Philippines have increased reported measles cases except for CAR. Highest increases are in Region XI, XII, X, NCR & CARAGA."

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    What is measles?

    Measles is caused by the measles virus (MeV) from the paramyxovirus family, which also includes viruses that cause mumps and rubella. The MeV virus causes acute respiratory infection. It is highly contagious and quickly spread because it is airborne. 

    The virus is passed from one person to another by direct contact through the air. "[It] could spread when an [infected] patient sneezes, wipes his nose, or rubs his eyes with his bare hands and holds on to things where he can leave discharges," explains pediatrician Dr. Candy Aguilar-Ocampo.

    The WHO says the measles virus can stay alive in the air for up to two hours after an infected patient leaves the room. An infected person can spread measles to 90% of the people close to him or her from four days before through four days after the rash appears.

    Signs and symptoms of measles

    The measles virus infection typically starts in the cells that line the back of the throat and lungs. "Incubation period is about eight to 12 days, meaning, you don't get sick right away," says pediatrician Dr. Florence Irena A. Atutubo. These are the signs and symptoms that one is infected with measles: 

    • High fever, higher than 38.5-degree Celcius
    • Runny nose that may seem like a start of a regular cold
    • Red or watery eyes
    • Cough
    • Red lesions with bluish white spots in the center or the inner part of the cheeks
    • Rashes that appear first on the forehead near the hairline, behind the ears, and on the upper neck. It then spreads to the arms, chest and back, abdomen, and lower extremities, even on the palms and soles. 
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    Treatment and management of measles

    If a person is displaying symptoms of measles, he needs to be isolated so he doesn't spread the virus further. As far as treatment goes, "in the management of measles, you can only treat the symptoms,” says Dr. Aguilar-Ocampo. "Hydration is most important. Paracetamol is given for comfort and to treat the fever," she added. Antihistamines may also be given to relieve itchiness. 

    The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests two doses of vitamin A supplements given 24 hours apart.  Vitamin A deficiency is known to increase the risk of death from measles and getting supplements have shown to reduce the number of deaths by half, according to the WHO. 

    Because it's a viral infection, antibiotics cannot help a patient who has measles. "Antibiotics only work against bacteria. Only in the presence of complications are antibiotics given," Dr. Atutubo said. Possible complications include ear infections that may result in permanent hearing loss, bronchitis, laryngitis or croup, pneumonia, encephalitis, acute diarrhea due to severe dehydration. 

    For pregnant women, having measles puts them at risk for miscarriage, preterm labor, and even stillbirth.

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    How to prevent measles

    Measles is a vaccine-preventable disease. The measles vaccine has been available and has been distributed for 50 years since 1968. It is safe and effective. 

    The measles vaccine works by introducing a weakened strain of the virus to the human body, which then triggers the immune system to produce antibodies to ward off the disease. Once a person has been exposed to a strain of measles via the vaccine or if they have had measles, he is already protected for life. 


    The measles vaccine is now usually combined with vaccines that protect against mumps and rubella. The Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccine is included in the required immunization for children. It is given to children at least 12 to 15 months old and in two doses at least four weeks apart. Adults need at least one dose of the measles vaccine unless they have already had measles and are immune to it.

    "Getting the measles vaccine or the MMR vaccine is still the best way to protect yourself,” stresses Dr. Aguilar-Ocampo. The most susceptible to the virus are kids aged 6 to 12 when they may be exposed to unvaccinated kids, pregnant women, and individuals who have a poor or weakened immune system, especially if they are unvaccinated or have not completed the required dosages of the measles vaccine. 

    UNICEF tags measles as "a disease that can potentially be lethal to a small child." For babies who are not old, breastfeeding exclusively can help boost their immune system though they can still be infected. It's best to avoid unnecessarily bringing babies to crowded places to avoid contact with infected individuals. 

    Having a large number of unvaccinated children significantly increases the risk of having a measles outbreak, which means more infections and deaths. The vaccine can better protect everyone and even wipe out the disease, if the whole community is on board. 

    "Measles elimination can be achieved if measles vaccine coverage is 95 percent in every district," said former DOH assistant secretary Dr. Eric Tayag. This was how vaccines eradicated polio and maternal and neonatal tetanus in the country. 

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