Health Secretary Francisco Duque on Wednesday confirmed an outbreak of measles in Metro Manila and Central Luzon.
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He made the statement even as Ruby Constantino, head of the department’s Disease Prevention and Control Bureau, said more than 2 million children were at risk of getting infected with measles due to lack of immunization.
She said another measles outbreak was expected this year because 2.4 million children were not vaccinated against measles.
“We are expecting that we will have another outbreak this year,” Constantino told CNN Philippines.
The Health department expressed alarm over the rising number of measles cases and urged parents to have their children vaccinated against the infectious disease.
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In Central Luzon, Dr. Jesse Fantone, chief of the DOH’s Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit, confirmed the outbreak.
“Yes, it’s an outbreak,” Fantone said, as the regional health office has recorded 442 suspected cases of measles as of Feb. 2.
DOH spokesperson Roland Domingo also told ANC television that several other regions are also under “tight watch” for a measles outbreak―the Ilocos Region, Cagayan Valley, Cordillera Administrative Region, and the Caraga Region.
“This is really a bit alarming. We really need to intensify, catch up with our vaccination levels here in the Philippines,” Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo told DZMM radio.
The department said cases of measles in Metro Manila rose by 550 percent from Jan. 1 to Feb. 6 this year compared with the same period last year.
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The department recorded 169 cases of measles in Metro Manila during that period, or higher than the 26 cases recorded in the same period last year.
In the San Lazaro Hospital in Manila alone, 7 children died within a day due to measles while at least 248 children were being treated for the disease as of Tuesday morning.
At least 55 deaths from measles were recorded at the San Lazaro Hospital, most of them children aged 3 months to 4 years old.
The Philippines saw measles cases jump fourfold, from 4,000 cases in 2017 to 21,000 cases last year.
Constantino attributed the increase to the anti-dengue Dengvaxia scare, which eroded Filipinos’ trust in vaccines.
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