Measles outbreak kills 8, infects 161 in Eastern Visayas

TACLOBAN CITY — The Department of Health (DOH) has declared on Thursday a measles outbreak in Eastern Visayas as the highly-contagious disease killed eight children and downed 161 others in the first few weeks of 2019.

DOH Secretary Francisco Duque announced a measles outbreak in other areas in Luzon, Central Visayas, and Eastern Visayas, during a press briefing at the central office, said DOH regional information officer John Paul Roca.

Cases in the region have spiked significantly from January to early February as only 55 percent of children were covered by the immunization program late last year, the DOH regional office here reported.

The victims are six months to nine months old children, whose parents refused to bring them to health centers to avail of free vaccines.

Out of the eight deaths, four children were from Palo, Leyte; two from Tacloban City; one from Pastrana, Leyte; and one from Gandara, Samar. The latest fatality was recorded on Feb. 1 in Gandara town.

Of the 161 cases, 119 were recorded in Leyte, 34 in Samar, three in Eastern Samar, two in Biliran, two in Northern Samar, and one in Southern Leyte. The health department is still checking reports of new cases this week.

“This is very alarming because in January last year, we only recorded two measles cases with no single death. More children suffered the disease because their parents refused to participate in the immunization program due to Dengvaxia scare,” Roca said.

The DOH noted that some parents refused to have their children vaccinated for fear that they would suffer adverse side effects similar to some children who received the Dengvaxia vaccine.

Before the Dengvaxia controversy last year, the region achieved 85 percent immunization coverage, Roca added.

Measles immunization starts at nine months. Some of the victims are younger than nine months. These children got the disease from older children, whose parents missed the scheduled immunization activity.

Measles immunization provided by the government for free saves children’s lives as it prevents children from becoming seriously ill.

The highly-contagious viral disease remains one of the top causes of death among young children globally, despite the availability of a safe and effective vaccine, according to the World Health Organization.

Measles is transmitted via droplets from the nose, mouth or throat of infected persons. Initial symptoms, which usually appear 10–12 days after infection, include high fever, a runny nose, bloodshot eyes, and tiny white spots on the inside of the mouth.

Several days later, rashes will develop, starting on the face and upper neck and gradually spreading downwards. Sarwell Meniano / PNA –