Philippines hit by deadly measles outbreak

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Health Secretary Francisco Duque told reporters on Thursday (Feb 7) measles cases in Manila and in seven other regions had risen more than five-fold to 1,500 so far this year from just 250 a year ago.

The Department of Health declared an outbreak in Central Visayas on Thursday stating with 96 cases recorded for January 2019 alone.

The DOH also declared a measles outbreak in Ilocos, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon), Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan) and Bicol.

"I appeal to all parents to have their children vaccinated against measles".

Health authorities have given varying figures for the number of measles cases and fatalities, including 60 deaths as of Friday morning at San Lazaro Hospital in Manila.

"We should take every opportunity to convince and reinforce the message that the vaccines available to prevent diseases are safe and highly effective", said the Philippine Pediatric Society and Pediatric Infectious Disease Society of the Philippines in a joint statement.

In 2017, French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur published clinical trial data showing that the dengue vaccine could have unintended consequences in patients who had never been infected with the mosquito-borne virus.

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In early 2016, the health department, under then President Benigno Aquino, rolled out a 3.5 billion-peso (S$91 million) programme to inoculate a million school-age children with Dengvaxia to protect them against dengue, a mosquito-borne disease that afflicts hundreds of millions of people around the world.

He said the main target for vaccination this time was measles because it was very contagious and could quickly spread.

Last year, there were 245 confirmed from out of the 1,052 suspected measles cases. "The [Health] secretary was saying that some of our people are reluctant to undergo immunization by reason of the Dengvaxia scandal".

The City Health Department has noted an increase in parents availing of anti-measles vaccinations in Cebu City. Measles is an airborne disease that infects the respiratory tract, and its complications include severe diarrhea, pneumonia, blindness, and even death.

The UNICEF lamented that the coverage for routine immunizations in the country is only 55 percent, when measles outbreak and population immunity could be achieved by 95 percent. There is an outbreak of measles in the region.

Convocar said they also prioritize the implementation of "measles fast lanes".

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