By Analou De Vera and Argyll Geducos
The measles outbreak, initially declared in Metro Manila, has now widened as it now spread to four more regions, the Department of Health (DOH) said Thursday as it noted the increasing number of cases in the past weeks.
The four new regions affected by the measles outbreak are Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon), Central Luzon, Western Visayas, and Central Visayas.
Dismayed after learning about the measles outbreak in Metro Manila or the National Capital Region (NCR) that already killed at least 55 people, President Duterte ordered the DOH to immediately address the health issue, Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said Thursday.
The President also ordered a more intensified campaign for the complete immunization of children.
In Calabarzon, 575 cases were already recorded with nine deaths; Central Luzon, 192 cases with four deaths; Western Visayas, 104 cases with three deaths; and Central Visayas, 71 cases with one death.
“We are expanding the outbreak from Metro Manila to other regions as cases have increased in the past weeks and to strengthen surveillance of new cases and alert mothers and caregivers to be more vigilant,” said Health Secretary Francisco Duque III during a press briefing at the DOH Central office in Manila.
NCR: 1,125% increase
The DOH said that as of January 26, NCR recorded 441 cases, which is 1,125 percent higher compared to the 36 cases recorded in 2018.
Duque also said that they are also closely monitoring Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan), Ilocos, Cagayan Valley, Bicol, Northern Mindanao, Eastern Visayas, and Soccsksargen as these areas are showing trends of the increasing number of cases.
“These regions should likewise step-up their response against this highly communicable disease, as well as ensure that preventive measures play a vital role in preventing the spread of the disease; these must be emphasized to mothers and general public as a whole,” said the health chief.
Last week, President Duterte urged Filipinos, especially parents of newborns, to have their children vaccinated as public trust with immunization plummeted due to the Dengvaxia, or the anti-Dengue vaccine, mess.
“Do not be complacent about it kasi ang sanggol talaga kailangan. Iyong Dengvaxia lang (because the child really needs it. It’s just the Dengvaxia),” he said.
No new strain of measles
Moreover, Duque said that there is no new strain of measles in the country.
“There is no known new strain of measles virus. Marami lang talaga because of unvaccinated status or defaulters,” he said.
Health Undersecretary Rolando Enrique Domingo said that from 2017 to 2018, there are 1.8 million children who were unvaccinated with measles vaccine.
Domingo said that the country has enough supplies of measles vaccine. “Yes, we do because we always buy for the total population target,” he said.
Duque emphasized that immunization and vitamin A supplementation of nine-month-old children are the “best defenses against measles.”
“Supportive measures like building the nutritional status of the sick person and increasing oral rehydration are important measures to increase body resistance and replace lost body fluids caused by coughing, diarrhea, and perspiration,” he added.
He once again reiterated that the measles vaccine is safe and already proven effective and is free.
Senator Maria Lourdes “Nancy” Binay called on the DOH to intensify its efforts to counter the measles outbreak that hit several regions in the country.
“The number of cases of measles is worrying. If left unchecked, measles and other communicable diseases can become a full-blown epidemic,” said Binay, a member of the Senate committee on health and demography.
“If our barangay health workers need to conduct a door-to-door information campaign to stop the spread of the disease, let’s do it,” she stressed.
Meanwhile, Domingo also encouraged adults, who are still unvaccinated, to go to the nearest health centers and get themselves protected against the disease.
“Kung nabakunahan ka na or kung nagkatigdas ka na, hindi ka na magkakatigdas uli, na immune ka na from the infection, you never get measles twice,” he furthered.