DOH assures spread of measles 'not alarming'

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Monday, August 4, 2014


DENGUE is not the only disease that’s been threatening lives in Northern Mindanao, yet another infection also caused by a virus has been spreading in the region.

The Regional Epidemiology, Surveillance and Disaster Response Unit (Resdru) of the Department of Health in the region (DOH-10) reported a total of 1,520 cases of suspected measles as of July 25, 2014.

Epidemic threshold

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This is 2,880 percent higher compared to the same period last year, which reported only 51 cases.

The 1,520 incidents of suspected measles emerged from the different sentinel hospitals region-wide from January 1 to July 25 this year. Sentinel hospitals which also include health centers and clinics watch over cases on measles.

The latest surveillance report from the DOH-10 obtained by this paper showed that suspected measles has already reached the epidemic threshold.

Epidemic threshold refers to a level above which agents can spread explosively and cause epidemics.

Measles, or “tipdas” in the vernacular, is an infection of the respiratory, immune system and skin caused by a virus known as paramyxovirus.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the measles virus is contained in the millions of tiny droplets that come out of the nose and mouth when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

WHO said anyone can easily catch measles by breathing in these droplets or, touching the surface where droplets could have settled and placing hands near nose or mouth.

The measles virus can survive on surfaces for a few hours. Inside the body, the virus multiplies in the back of the person’s throat and lungs before spreading throughout the body.

With or without vaccination, anyone can get measles and it is common to infect children between 1 to 4 years old.

‘Measles outbreak’

Emiliano Galban Jr., DOH-10 information officer, has clarified to Sun*Star Cagayan de Oro by phone that this data should not cause alarm to the people in the region as outbreak can only be declared in clusters or specific areas.

"There are no signs the measles outbreak has reached an alarming level. We say it's alarming when death rate surpasses the number of patients saved," Galban said.

Deaths caused by measles as of July 25 this year reached five—four of the five patients had not been vaccinated.

Asuncion Ilogon, Resdru program coordinator on measles, told this paper that the primary symptom of measles is the reddish spots that appear on outer skin. It also includes general discomfort, high fever, loss of appetite, runny nose, red eyes and cough.

Complications

"The worse this infection can get are complications of pneumonia and diarrhea that can cause death. If fever exists, seek treatment immediately," Ilogon noted.

To further prevent the spreading of the virus, she added, if possible, a contracted patient has to stay inside the house since paramyxovirus can be airborne.

"Once a person gets measles, it is rarely to develop the infection again in the future since the body builds up immunity or resistance to the virus," Ilogon told this paper in a previous interview.

MisOr with highest number of cases

Misamis Oriental recorded 859 cases of suspected measles in the region while Cagayan de Oro City has the highest number among other cities and municipalities in the province with 568, DOH-10 said.

Clustering was noted in barangays Canitoan, Carmen, Macabalan, Balulang, Gusa, Patag and Kauswagan.

Iligan City followed Cagayan de Oro with 126 cases while Bukidnon followed Misamis Oriental with 433.

The surveillance report also disclosed that 132 blood specimens from the contracted patients were declared positive of measles out of the tested 767 at Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Manila.

‘No vaccination’

Ilogon added that 58 percent of the total number of infected patients did not undergo vaccination.

The DOH-10 has been conducting free measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine in the region to further prevent people from contracting and spreading of the virus.

Meanwhile, the DOH central office plans to launch a nationwide free measles vaccination of children in September 2014.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on August 04, 2014.

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