REPORTS on measles outbreak in the country started in February.
The national government, through the Department of Health (DOH), has put its efforts in addressing the current health problem and preventing the spread of measles outbreaks.
At present, the DOH has intensified its campaign on vaccination through massive immunization drive.
Measles, according to Dr. Neal Rana, specialist on Occupational Medicine and Pathology and the chairman of the Office of Documents and Records Control of Northern Mindanao Medical Center, is a common, highly contagious and vaccine preventable viral disease that can cause significant morbidity and even death when not properly managed.
“Measles is primarily a childhood disease but it can affect all ages. The risk contracting the virus is high for those who have not received the vaccine, especially children below 5 years old, unvaccinated pregnant women and those non-immune person who did not develop immunity after giving the vaccine,” Rana said.
“Furthermore, the risk is high in immuno-compromised individuals, those with weakened immune system like those people living with HIV-Aids (Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome),” he added.
Rana added that measles, is highly contagious and can be transmitted by coughing, sneezing, close personal contact and direct contact with infected body fluids.
The virus remains in the air or in an infected surface up to two hours. It can be transmitted by an infected person four days prior to the onset of rash and up to four days after the rash erupts.
“The onset of symptoms ranges from seven to 14 days, averaging ten to 12 days. The first sign of measles is usually high fever which can go up to 40 degrees Celsius. This is often accompanied by runny nose, cough, reddish eyes, and small white spots in the surface of the mouth which we call it Koplick spots. Others will have decrease appetite and body malaise,” Rana said.
Even though there is still no specific treatment that kills the virus, Rana said measles can be prevented through vaccination and having a healthy lifestyle.
“Measles vaccine is already 50 years old and is proven safe and effective. It is usually given in combination with other vaccines like mumps and German measles,” Rana said as he assured the public of the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine as there are some who are still wary of receiving vaccination due to the Dengvaxia scandal.
However, despite that, it was reported by the Public Health Surveillance Division of the DOH that the top reasons as for non-vaccination of measles-containing vaccine were: parents or mother was busy, not eligible for vaccination and the child was sick.
“It is also important to mention that vaccinated mothers can also protect their infants, that's why we encourage vaccination to all mothers,” Rana said.
In Northern Mindanao, the DOH in the said region reported around 12,000 children have been already vaccinated, however, the number of measles-related cases continues to rise.
According to Dr. Dave Mendoza, head of the Regional Epidemiology, Surveillance and Disaster Response Unit, the DOH-Northern Mindanao recorded a total of 499 suspected measles from January 1 to February 17, with seven deaths.
Its 222 percent higher compared to the same period last year, Mendoza added.
Although, Mendoza is optimistic that the number of measles might decline this summer as health personnel has been catching up with the vaccination levels in the region.