AN EIGHT-month-old baby boy from Carcar City was the latest measles fatality in Central Visayas, health officials said Tuesday, Feb. 19.
Based on the latest report provided by the Department of Health (DOH) 7, the baby from Carcar City was the fourth person to die of measles.
Dr. Jeanette Pauline Cortes, head of the DOH 7’s Center for Health Development, said the boy died last January at the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC) in Cebu City but it was on Monday, Feb. 18, that laboratory results confirmed he died of measles.
Even though it’s already the eighth day of the DOH 7’s Measles Outbreak Response Immunization Program, the number of measles cases continues to rise in the region.
In about 24 hours, the number of measles cases increased by 5.3 percent.
From 299 cases on Monday, Feb. 18, the number rose to 316 on Tuesday. Forty-eight of the cases were confirmed measles based on laboratory results.
Cebu Province had the most number of measles cases, with 222 monitored.
The four fatalities also came from Cebu provincial areas namely Carcar City, Pinamungajan, Moalboal and San Francisco.
After Cebu Province is Negros Oriental with 72 cases, Bohol with 20 cases and Siquijor with two cases.
To prevent more measles cases from increasing, the DOH 7 is targeting to vaccinate around 371,197 children this year, Cortes added.
Dr. Shelbay Blanco, DOH 7’s Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (Resu) head, said they already placed “vaccination posts” in every barangay and hospital in the region in order for the general public to avail themselves of free anti-measles vaccination.
Since they started putting up vaccination posts last Feb. 12, around 10,577 people have been vaccinated against measles, or 2.8 percent of DOH 7’s vaccination target.
Only Cebu Province so far has established vaccination posts and will expand to other
areas in the region in a couple of days.
Aside from barangays and hospitals, the DOH is also planning to expand its vaccination posts in commercial malls in the region, particularly during the weekends, Blanco said.
He also encouraged hospitals to put up their own “measles fast lanes” and designated isolation rooms to address patients who are admitted to their facilities.
Blanco added they are currently tying up with the Department of Education (DepEd) to expand their vaccination programs to the public schools. But health officials lamented that there are still those who refused to have themselves or their children vaccinated because of various reasons.
“Parents shouldn’t wait that more cases would crop up before they decide to have their children vaccinated. Measles is supposed to be preventable as long as they avail themselves of the vaccines. One vaccine protects your child from death,” said DOH 7 assistant director Dr. Ellenieta Gamolo.
Provincial Health Office Chief Rene Catan said the country needs at least 95 percent of its people to be vaccinated to prevent a measles outbreak.
“We need at least 95 percent of the entire population (to be vaccinated) so the disease cannot penetrate. We are presently at 43 percent,” Catan said.
Records from the Philippine Statistics Authority’s official website reveal that the country had a population of 100.98 million as of August 2015.
This means that to prevent a measles outbreak, around 95.93 million of the Philippine population needs to be vaccinated.
From Jan. 1 to Feb. 11 this year, 101 measles cases have been recorded in Cebu Province, an increase of 2,425 percent compared to the four cases recorded in the same period in 2018.
Of the 101 cases, 50 were recorded in Cebu City; 10 in Lapu-Lapu City; eight in Mandaue City; five in Liloan; four in Talisay City; three in Pinamungajan; and three in Consolacion.
Two cases were recorded each in Bogo City, Carcar City, Cordova, Minglanilla, and the City of Naga.
Danao City, Malabuyoc, Medellin, Moalboal, San Fernando, San Francisco, Toledo City and Tuburan reported one case each.
Catan said that even before the Dengvaxia scare, a drop in meeting the immunization target was observed as people became more lax about measles.
Catan, though, is hopeful that with the ongoing widespread information drive and vaccination campaigns, the number of measles cases in the province will decrease in the coming months. (HBL of SuperBalita Cebu, Jolissa Mae Taboada, USJ-R Intern, JKV)