6 dead in Central Luzon due to measles

PAMPANGA, Philippines – Six people died due to measles in Central Luzon from January 1 to February 10 this year, the Department of Health (DOH) regional office said on Tuesday, February 12.

DOH Region 3 said there were 445 suspected cases during the period, 192 of which were confirmed measles cases.

During the same period last year, only 47 suspected cases of measles, 32 confirmed cases of measles, and no death were recorded in the region.

State-run Philippine News Agency quoted Dr Jess Fantone, head of DOH Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (RESU), as saying that 96% of the children affected by measles in Central Luzon were not vaccinated against the measles virus. 

Three of those who died from measles were from Pampanga and one each from Bataan, Bulacan, and Zambales.

As of February 7, when the DOH declared a measles outbreak in Central Luzon, the number of suspected cases per province were as follows: 

As of Tuesday, February 12, the DOH Region 3 office could not yet provide Rappler with updated statistics of suspected and confirmed measles cases in Central Luzon. 

Regional health officials reiterated the DOH appeal to parents that the anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia scare should not be a reason for them not to have their children vaccinated against other diseases like measles.

They said that measles immunization is being conducted in all health centers of the region every Wednesday.  

Fantone earlier urged to parents to bring their children to health centers for vaccination, adding that this was the only way to control the spread the infectious disease. (EXPLAINER: When should one get vaccinated against measles?)

Pampanga Governor Lilia Pineda has directed all local health offices in cities and towns in the province to intensify vaccination and information campaign against measles. 

She also ordered that measles patients in district hospitals be transferred to the newly constructed Diosdado P. Macapagal Memorial Hospital Annex in San Luis town for better observation. 

As early as the end of the first quarter last year, the DOH RESU here noticed the significant rise in measles cases in Central Luzon compared to the same period in 2017. 

While there were only 75 measles cases in the first quarter of 2017, the number rose to 106 cases during the same period in 2018. By the end of March 2018, a measles outbreak was declared in Pampanga with 56 cases, and in Tarlac with 18 cases. 

The DOH said on Monday, February 11, that the measles outbreak has caused at least 70 deaths  from January 1 to February 9, with majority of the fatalities coming from Calabarzon.

There is no specific treatment for measles, though the condition usually improves within 7 to 10 days.

Infected persons are commonly given paracetamol or ibuprofen to reduce their fever, and plenty of fluids to drink to keep them hydrated.

Measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by a virus that is transferred from person-to-person by sneezing, coughing, and close personal contact. Signs and symptoms include cough, runny nose, red eyes/conjunctivitis, fever, and skin rashes lasting for more than 3 days.

The disease's complications include diarrhea, middle ear infection, pneumonia, encephalitis (swelling of the brain), malnutrition, and blindness. It may also lead to death. – Rappler.com