DOH: Rizal, Laguna, Batangas top measles cases in Calabarzon

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The provinces of Rizal and Laguna have the highest recorded measles cases in Calabarzon, the Department of Health (DOH) said on Saturday, February 9.

In a statement, DOH Calabarzon said that the total number of cases in the region has reached 560 from January 1 to February 2 this year, 409% higher than the previous year's record of 110.

It said that there were 14 confirmed deaths, with the fatalities 9 months to 81 years old. (READ: Malacañang to LGUs: Get involved in immunization info drive)

Of the provinces, Rizal topped the list with 226 cases, followed by Laguna with at 115. It is closely followed by Batangas at 114 cases.

Meanwhile, Cavite has 87 reported cases and Quezon has 18.

The regional health office on Friday, February 8, issued advisories to all provincial and city health offices, as well as National Immunization Program coordinators, to immediately conduct mass immunization against measles.

The program will prioritize children 6 months to 59 months old, regardless of vaccination status.

DOH Calabarzon Director Eduardo Janairo said those 5 years old and above will also be included in the program, "to ensure that everyone will be protected and further prevent the spread of measles to the population."

The program will be done through house-to-house visits, reading of advisory during church services, distribution of information materials, and setting up injection posts in churches, bus stations, fast-food chains, schools, and other public areas.

"There is no cure for measles, but it can be prevented through proper immunization of children aged 6 months to 59 months old. A person can receive the vaccine more than twice after 28 days or after a month after receiving it," Janairo said.

"I appeal to all parents to have their children vaccinated against measles. It is their only protection against the virus and it [has been] clinically safe and proven effective for many years," he added.

The DOH declared measles outbreaks in Metro Manila as well as in Calabarzon, Central Visayas, and Western Visayas. The DOH earlier included Eastern Visayas, then corrected itself on Monday, February 11, saying that this should be Western Visayas.

Locally known as tigdas, measles is a virus that infects the respiratory tract and then spreads throughout the body. It is highly contagious.

Symptoms include fever, dry cough, runny nose, red watery eyes, tiny white spots inside the mouth, and skin rashes. (READ: FAST FACTS: What is measles and how can it be prevented?)

Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año on Thursday, February 7, said it was the vaccination scare brought by the Dengvaxia controversy that led to the measles outbreaks. – Aika Rey/Rappler.com