Health authorities are trying to determine if the cases that have killed at least 22 people in Malapatan, Sarangani are caused by measles.
Informed source said the regional health unit had sent blood samples to the main office of the Department of Health in Manila for confirmation if the victims, who have displayed symptoms of measles, in fact, died of measles.
Medical experts say measles is a highly contagious infectious disease caused by the measles virus. Symptoms usually develop 10–12 days after exposure to an infected person and last 7–10 days.
Initial symptoms typically include fever, often greater than 40 °C (104.0 °F), cough, runny nose, and inflamed eyes.
Reports said more or less 200 patients had displayed symptoms of measles.
Data from the World Health Organization showed that cases of measles had decreased by 84 percent from 2000 to 2016.
On Monday, local health officials in Sarangani said at least 17 children were reported to have died in several remote communities in the Sarangani town of Malapatan during the past three weeks due to a suspected measles outbreak.
Dr. Diomedes Remitar, Malapatan Municipal Health Office chief, said the victims, who included infants, reportedly died several days after exhibiting severe symptoms of measles infection.
Remitar said the suspected outbreak was monitored in Sitios Lower and Upper Kyogam, Mahayag, Lino, Datal Nai and Alna of Barangay Upper Suyan.
Based on information relayed by barangay health workers and officials of Barangay Upper Suyan, the MHO chief said the affected villages—among the remotest areas in the town—are inhabited by the B’laan tribe.
“These are considered suspected measles cases as we have not conducted confirmatory tests on the fatalities,” he said.
The health officer suspected that some of the reported fatalities could have suffered from diseases other than measles.
As of Monday, at least 23 people from Barangay Upper Suyan are confined at the R.O. Diagan Hospital here after earlier showing symptoms of suspected measles such high fever, skin rashes, conjunctivitis, and other flu-like illnesses.
Hospital records showed 15 of the patients, which included a four-month-old baby and a seven-month pregnant mother, had confirmed measles infection and were currently under isolation in at least three rooms.
Boyet Ogan, chairman of Barangay Upper Suyan, said around 100 people, mostly infants and children, were affected by the outbreak.
Ogan said the initial measles cases were monitored in one of the sub-village last Nov. 5 and rapidly spread to the other areas.
As part of their interventions, Remitar said they had vaccinated around 500 infants and children in the area against measles.
He said their office has provided medicines and treatment to some of the affected residents.
“It’s quite difficult to access the affected communities due to their remoteness and the problematic roads,” he said.
Remitar added that they also had difficulty getting proper information as it requires a hike of at least 20 hours to reach the areas.