The epidemic that hit the Philippines at the start of 2019 has now infected more people, even as the Department of Health (DOH) diligently monitors the situation and educates people about the disease.
Measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by a virus located in the throat and lining of the lungs. It can spread through coughing, sneezing, or close personal contact. The virus incubates for 10 to 12 days before a fever breaks out that lasts between 2 to 4 days, accompanied by cough, runny nose, and conjunctivitis. Three days after the symptoms begin, rashes appear and spread throughout the hands and feet.
If left untreated, measles can cause complications (e.g. diarrhea, ear infection, encaphilitis, pneumonia, and seizures), some of which can be fatal. Children below 5 years old, adults above 20 years old, and pregnant women are at risk of measles.
The DOH has reported that the number of deaths and cases of measles in the country as of Monday, February 11, 2019, has risen to 70 and 4,300 respectively. Majority of those deaths came from Calabarzon, with most of the casualties ranging from one month to 31 years of age, and 79% of which did not undergo immunization.
Regions that are most affected by the measles outbreak are Metro Manila (1,296 cases and 18 deaths), Calabarzon (1,086 cases and 25 deaths), Central Luzon (481 cases and 3 deaths), Western Visayas (212 cases and 4 deaths), and Northern Mindanao (189 cases and 5 deaths). The DOH is also keeping a close eye on regions with rising measles cases as of February 9 like Eastern Visayas, Mimaropa, Central Visayas, and Bicol.
The alleged reason behind the outbreak is the lack of child immunization against the disease. Health Secretary Francisco Duque III attributed this to the Dengvaxia scare that hit the country in 2017, as the country’s immunization rate decreased from an average of 70 percent in the previous years to only 40 percent in 2018.
The DOH’s records show that 960,457 children were not immunized during the first three quarters of 2018 as compared to their 2017 account of 855,039.
In response to this dilemma, President Duterte has initiated a “massive immunization program” for children, with the DOH starting a house-to-house program targeting about 1.8 million unvaccinated children nationwide.
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