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  • PH Ranks 3rd in the World With Highest Number of Measles Cases

    Measles cases have tripled while the number of deaths has quadrupled over the past seven months.
    by Kitty Elicay .
PH Ranks 3rd in the World With Highest Number of Measles Cases
PHOTO BY iStock
  • The Philippines has recorded 45,847 measles cases from July 2018 to June 2019, making us the third country worldwide — after Madagascar (150,000 cases) and Ukraine (84,300 cases) — with the highest incidence of the viral infection, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

    Inquirer.net reports measles cases have tripled, and the number of deaths has quadrupled over the past seven months, according to health authorities. Records from the Department of Health (DOH) also showed that around 80% of measles-related deaths in the country in the first six months of 2019 were of children ages 1 to 4 and infants below 9 months.

    In February 2019, the DOH declared a measles outbreak in the country after recording more than 11,000 measles cases and 189 fatalities from January 1 to Feb 20, 2019. Six months later, numbers continue to surge — the Calabarzon region reported the highest incidence rate as of July 13 with 7,213 cases, or a 1,000% increase from 632 cases last year. It also had the greatest number of fatalities with 123 individuals dying due to the infection — almost a 2,000% rise from the previous year.

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    Other regions with high incidence of measles include Metro Manila with 6,969 cases and 114 deaths, Central Luzon with 6,350 cases and 115 deaths, Western Visayas with 2,379 cases and eight deaths, and Northern Mindanao, with 2,118 cases and 16 deaths.

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    Fear of vaccines contribute to rise of measles cases

    The WHO notes that the largest outbreaks happen in countries with low coverage of measles vaccination, making a large number of the population vulnerable to infection.

    “When enough people who are not immune are exposed to measles, it can very quickly spread,” said the WHO in the report.

    Among the reasons for low coverage of measles vaccination were the “lack of access to quality health care or vaccination services, misinformation about vaccines, and the low awareness about the need to vaccinate.”

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    The DOH points to vaccine hesitancy as one of the reasons for the measles outbreak in the country. According to the agency, the country’s immunization rate dropped to 40% early this year.

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    In a separate report, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) declared that some 2.9 million Filipino children are at risk of contracting life-threatening diseases as measles immunization coverage in the country has dropped at an “alarming rate."

    Public health scares, like the Dengvaxia controversy, vaccine shortage, and difficulty in accessing hard-to-reach areas are to blame for the low immunization rate, according to UNICEF.

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    How to prevent measles from spreading

    Measles is a highly contagious viral infection. The virus is passed from one person to another by direct contact with infectious droplets or by airborne spread. It can also cause even more serious complications like pneumonia and encephalitis which can result in death.

    Measles, however, is a vaccine-preventable disease. The measles vaccine is typically given to babies at a minimum age of 9 months, but it can be given as early as six months when there is an outbreak. (Read the updated immunization schedule for 2019 here.)

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    To prevent measles from spreading, vaccination coverage in a community should be at 95%, says the WHO.

    The WHO reminds parents to ensure their children’s vaccination records are up-to-date and the children are administered two doses, which is crucial for protection against the disease.

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    Vaccination is a safe and scientifically proven way of fighting deadly and infectious diseases, according to the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society of the Philippines (PIDSP) and Philippine Pediatric Society (PPS).

    “Vaccinating our children is one of the most basic medical interventions to ensure that our children develop as healthy adults. Some fears and myths persist that vaccines could harm infants, but decades of studies have shown that vaccines prevent unnecessary child deaths instead of causing them,” said PIDSP president Dr. Anna Lisa Ong-Lim

    Dengue is another viral infection that needs our attention. Click here for pedia recommendations on what to do as part of outbreak response.

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