MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Health (DOH) yesterday ruled out the possibility that the recent measles outbreak in Metro Manila was caused by a new strain.
In a text message, Health Undersecretary Ted Herbosa said there is “no new strain” of measles in the Philippines, citing a report of the DOH-run Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM).
Herbosa said the measles virus circulating in the country is still the same and outbreaks were primarily caused by “unimmunized children.”
The DOH dreads the idea of a new strain of measles because this could render the existing vaccines against the viral disease ineffective.
From Jan. 1 to Dec. 14 last year, the DOH registered a total of 1,724 laboratory-confirmed measles cases nationwide, with 744 cases coming from Metro Manila.
According to the DOH, to acquire community or herd immunity from measles, the vaccination coverage in the population of a congressional district should not be less than 95 percent.
This would mean that there would be no outbreak of the disease in an area.
For the country to be declared measles-free by 2017, as set by the World Health Organization, there should only be one measles case per one million population.
Baby dies of measles
A seven-month-old baby in Lucena City reportedly died of pulmonary complications due to measles recently, a city health officer reported yesterday.
Caridad Diamante, officer-in-charge of the city health office, also said on a local TV program that out of 33 barangays in Lucena City, the village of Isabang has the most number of measles cases.
Diamante said they continue to monitor suspected cases and have intensified their massive vaccination against measles.
In Dagupan City, members of the health office yesterday said there has been no measles case in the area.
But city health officer Leonard Carbonell said they are keeping watch on two suspected cases in Barangays Bonuan Boquig and Caranglaan.
The victims are reportedly experiencing the symptoms of measles after coming from Manila and Samar two weeks ago.
The Philippine College of Physicians (PCP) and Philippine Society of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (PSMID) have urged private practitioners and hospitals to be more active in reporting incidents and cases to help determine an accurate picture of the extent of the problem that will enable the authorities to take appropriate actions.
The Philippine Pediatric Society and the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society of the Philippines (PIDSP), on the other hand, have expressed concern over the increasing number of measles cases.
They said based on the reports of the Reference Laboratory of the RITM, there were 500 laboratory-confirmed measles cases in November and 482 in December last year.
“As pediatricians and pediatric infectious disease specialists who are in the frontlines of the battle against childhood diseases, especially vaccine-preventable diseases, this situation is unacceptable,” said PIDSP president Beatriz Quiambao.
Mandatory nutrition program
Misamis Oriental Rep. Juliet Uy is pushing for the implementation of a mandatory national child nutrition program to help combat malnutrition and eradicate measles and other potentially deadly diseases.
Uy, author of House Bill 1548 which seeks to provide for a mandatory national child nutrition program in all public elementary schools and barangay day care centers, said “malnutrition is still one big public health problem for our people, affecting seven out of 10 children based on the national nutrition survey in 2008.”
The said survey, conducted by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) of the Department of Science and Technology, revealed there is a prevalence of underweight children aged 0-5 years (3.35 million); a 27.9 percent rate of underheight children (3.57 million); and a significant increase in the prevalence of underweight children aged six to 10 years from 22.8 percent in 2005 to 25.6 percent in 2008 (2.6 million).
The number of underheight children in this age group likewise increased from 32 percent to 33.1 percent. – With Michelle Zoleta, Eva Visperas, Paolo Romero