From January 1 to December 14, 2013, there were as many as 1,724 recorded cases of measles in the country, and out of that figure, a total of 21 deaths, according to the Department of Health’s National Epidemiology Center (NEC). Just as the new year began, with the number of measles cases rising, the Department of Health (DOH) declared a measles outbreak in five Metro Manila cities as of January 6: Caloocan, Muntinlupa, Las Pinas, Manila and Paranaque.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines an outbreak as “…the occurrence of cases of disease in excess of what would normally be expected in a defined community, geographical area or season. It may last for a few days or weeks, or for several years.”
Due to the growing concern over the possible spread of the disease, Health Secretary Enrique Ona, met with civil society groups and local government health officials to discuss plans for an intensified vaccination response in the metro. “Measles elimination can be achieved if measles vaccine coverage is 95 percent in every district,” said Tayag.
Because little kids are very susceptible to it, parents must be vigilant in order to avoid catching the disease. To know more about it, we consulted with medical practitioners for their expert opinion. Here is a quick read on what you need to know about measles:
How is the virus transmitted?
“The measles virus is airborne, and one person can affect as many as 18 others, compared to the flu which can affect only three,” explains DOH assistant secretary Eric Tayag.
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“The virus could spread when the patient sneezes, wipes his nose or rubs his eyes with his bare hands and holds on to things where he can leave discharges,” says Dr. Candy Aguilar-Ocampo, pediatrician at the Health Avenue Medical Services. “The virus may be suspended on air for as long as one hour after the patient leaves the room.” (Nelson’s Textbook of Pediatrics, 19th ed.)
Who are most vulnerable to the disease?
The most susceptible to the virus are school-aged children (six to 12 years old), pregnant women and immuno-compromised individuals (those who have poor health or a weak immune system), especially if they have not been vaccinated with or have not completed the required dosage of the measles vaccine. While it is most common among children, even adults can get infected because of the highly contagious nature of the disease.