Philippines: measles cases sharply increase in Manila

Anne Curtis was named UNICEF national goodwill ambassador on Thursday. Shiela Reyes ABS-CBN News

Anne Curtis was named UNICEF national goodwill ambassador on Thursday. Shiela Reyes ABS-CBN News

The Philippines on Wednesday declared a measles outbreak in the capital city of Manila.

The Department of Health (DOH) said there had been 441 cases of measles in the Manila metropolitan area as of January 26, compared to 36 cases in 2018.

The health department reported that vaccine coverage rate plunged to 40 per cent past year (2018) from 70 per cent in 2017. Of those cases, 1,114 were children.

The Provincial Health Office in Negros Occidental is on a massive measles immunization drive following a significant increase in the number of cases in the province. "The requirement for childhood vaccination is 2 doses of MMR vaccine, and that vaccination schedule is 99% effective-meaning, you are practically protected".

The scare started in late 2017, shortly after some 837,000 children were given the vaccine.

A lack of immunisations is behind the outbreak, said DOH Undersecretary Eric Domingo.

Sanofi has unequivocally said its product is safe, but Manila still halted the campaign and left hundreds of thousands of terrified parents wondering if their children were at risk.

More measles cases are being detected in and outside Metro Manila, prompting the Philippine Department of Health (DOH) to expand the declaration of a measles outbreak in several provinces in the Philippine main Luzon island and in the Visayas region in the central Philippines.

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In 2016 the rate was about 75%, but fell to 60% in 2017 and has likely fallen further in 2018. It it likely to have fallen further a year ago. Initial symptoms usually include a fever, cough, runny nose and inflamed eyes.

Measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease that can be transferred from person-to-person through sneezing, coughing, and close personal contact.

What's risky about measles is it's contagious even before the rash appears.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque has stressed that bronchopneumonia from measles complications can be deadly.

Twenty-two people recorded dead as a result of a measles outbreak in the Manila metropolitan area and other Philippines regions.

"Parents, caregivers tell us they are afraid to have their children vaccinated because of Dengvaxia", said Dr De Guzman.

In addition to the NCR area, health officials are also closely monitoring the Ilocos region, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Mimaropa (Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan), Bicol region, Western Visayas, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Zamboanga Peninsula, Cordillera region, and Caraga for measles.

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