Measles reaches epidemic margin in Northern Mindanao

HAVING the highest reported number of measles cases in northern Mindanao, Cagayan de Oro has joined national efforts to prevent outbreak of the virus-caused communicable diseases like measles, rubella, and polio that are easily spread among children.

The Regional Epidemiology, Surveillance and Disaster Response Unit (Resdru) of the Department of Health in the region (DOH-10) reported a total of 595 cases of suspected measles in the city as of August 29, 2014.

In the DOH-10's latest measles surveillance report, the figure shows 36 percent of all cases in the region is registered in Cagayan de Oro.

Epidemic threshold

With this figure, northern Mindanao has reached the epidemic threshold recording 1,657 cases which is 2,616 percent higher compared to the same period last year.

Most of those who contracted the disease were without vaccination while 66 percent of death occurred to those who had no inoculation, the report read.

Of the 845 blood specimens, Cagayan de Oro recorded the majority of positive cases for measles.

Dr. Joey Retuya, assistant city health officer, said these cases recorded in the city showed that the residents have been reporting their health conditions.

Retuya has urged the public to avail of the month-long free mass immunization in September starting last Monday which he considered the best method to prevent spreading of measles-rubella-polio viruses.

"The most important preventive measure is to have our kids vaccinated even before they reach nine months old," Retuya told Sun*Star Cagayan de Oro Tuesday morning.

Mildred Bagcong of Macanhan, Barangay Carmen had all her three children vaccinated to avert the possibility of contracting measles especially that the hospitalization cost is considered a luxury.

"Since free man siya (vaccination), gina-make sure nako nga protected akong mga bata kay lisod kaayo nga mas modaku atong gasto tungod kay wala ta nagprevent," Bagcong told this paper.

There are only two ways to prevent contracting measles – either you get vaccinated or you contract it and let your body become immune to such virus, Retuya added.

However, the health official thinks of vaccination as the ideal method because, in most instances, immunization by natural way means the body could not possibly stand against the virus which may lead to fatal complications.

Natural immunity or previously infected with measles assures an individual it may not return because of its life-long immunity. Virus also has chances of attacking a vaccinated individual due to uncertainty of the vaccine to convert it into an antibody.

Not alarming

In a previous interview, Emiliano Galban Jr., DOH-10 information officer, has clarified to this paper by phone that this data should not cause alarm to the people in the region as an 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 that could be saved," Galban said previously.

Deaths caused by measles as of August 29 this year reached six—four of the six patients had not been vaccinated.

The DOH carries out a nationwide measles, rubella and polio campaign to immunize 11 million children five years of age and below. Health centers in all barangays in the city will be available for vaccination throughout the month.

Outside of September, the routine program of the DOH will continue and it includes free vaccination to babies nine to 12 months old only.

From January 1 to April 2014, a total of 31,550 suspected measles cases were reported nationwide, 9,185 of which were already confirmed.


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