WHO: Philippines measles outbreak may spread to Western Pacific Region

USA. This February 6, 2015, file photo shows a measles, mumps and rubella vaccine on a countertop at a pediatrics clinic in Greenbrae, California. (AP)

THE World Health Organization (WHO) expressed concerns on Friday, March 29, that the prevailing measles outbreak in the Philippines will cause a large-scale outbreak all over the Western Pacific Region.

In a statement, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific Takeshi Kasai said they are worried that the measles outbreak in the Philippines, coupled with those in other countries in the region, may result in a wider outbreak.

“The resurgence of measles around the world has resulted in increased importation of the virus to several countries in our region,” said Kasai.

“What we want to stop is large-scale outbreaks resulting from those importations,” he added.

Kasai noted how measles cases in the region has increased this year by 250 percent, with more than two-thirds of the cases coming from the Philippines.

Aside from the Philippines, the WHO official said that Australia, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong (China), Japan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, and Vietnam have all recorded measles cases.

“Measles spread like wildfire. It is the most contagious human disease, and it’s very good at seeking out and spreading among even small groups of people who are not immune,” said Kasai.

He said this is the main reason why they are worried that the outbreak might even reach countries that have already made progress toward wiping out the disease.

“Even in countries where measles has been eliminated, as long as the virus is circulating elsewhere, people who are not immunized remain at risk of infection from an imported case,” warned Kasai.

“This, in turn can lead to an outbreak or re-establishment of transmission,” he added.

The WHO, then, renewed its call for an increase in the anti-measles immunization programs of the members-states.

The world health body similarly encouraged countries to address the reasons why children are not being vaccinated by combating misinformation and improving understanding of the importance and safety of vaccines.

“In recent months, we’ve seen how swiftly and easily measles can make a comeback in communities where not enough children have been immunized,” said the WHO official.

“Everybody should be vaccinated in all countries, whether or not they have achieved elimination,” added Kasai.

To note, WHO guidelines provide that for a community to be protected, at least 95 percent of children must receive two doses of measles vaccine. (HDT/SunStar Philippines)


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