MANILA - Measles cases in some provinces in Luzon continue to increase, apart from the nine cities in Metro Manila where the Department of Health (DOH) has declared an outbreak of the disease.
Reports from the DOH regional offices said that measles cases have increased in Pangasinan, Bataan and Albay.
In Pangasinan, the number of measles cases in 2013 rose to 26 from only two in 2012.
The provincial health office recorded 26 measles cases in the towns of Rosales, San Nicolas, Natividad and San Quintin.
Of the number, 12 cases were registered in Rosales town, which had zero measles case in 2012, according to provincial health officer Anna Ma. Teresa de Guzman.
De Guzman said they are also monitoring the towns of Lingayen and Mangatarem and Alaminos City for incidence of measles.
According to her, most of the patients had history of travel to Metro Manila during All Saints’ Day and the Christmas season.
At least 14 cases of measles have been recorded in Albay.
Gloria Balboa, regional director of the Center for Health Development, said the cases were posted in Daraga with five; Legazpi City, three; Camalig, two and one case each from the towns of Jovellar, Manito, Castilla and Pilar in Sorsogon.
Balboa said nine cases were recorded at the Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital from Jan. 1 to 7 this year.
Local health officials have intensified vaccination in Castilla and Pilar to prevent an outbreak of the disease.
At least 10 children with measles symptoms have been confined in different hospitals in Bataan.
In the Cordillera region, the number of cases has tripled to 197 last year compared to the 61 cases in 2012.
The DOH has recorded 62 measles cases in the Caraga region last year.
DOH-Caraga regional office spokesperson Sunshine Alipayo said Cabadbaran City in Agusan del Norte topped the list with 42 cases followed by Agusan del Sur with seven; Butuan City, six; Surigao City, one and Tandag City, one.
Party-list group Akbayan said yesterday it would launch a door-to-door vaccination campaign against measles in cooperation with the DOH, local government officials and its volunteers.
“We will join the war against this epidemic as we mobilize our party members and fellow activists in Manila in this important endeavor,“ the group said.
“The rising incidence of measles in the country is a serious concern that needs to be addressed swiftly and effectively as it continues to pose threats to the health and lives of our children,” it said.
The group urged the DOH to conduct a quick assessment of areas with measles outbreak and formulate recommendations without delay with the help of local government units (LGUs), civil society groups and volunteer organizations.
It noted the statement issued by the World Health Organization that measles remains one of the leading causes of death among children.
Immunization and vaccination are considered effective efforts in the reduction, prevention and elimination of the disease, Akbayan said.
Earlier, Valenzuela City Rep. Sherwin Gatchalian urged the DOH to mobilize LGUs, including barangay communities, against the spread of measles.
He said LGUs are in the best position to monitor those with measles and report them to the authorities so that the affliction does not reach epidemic proportions.
PHAP hits DOH
Meanwhile, the Private Hospital Associations of the Philippines (PHAP) yesterday slammed the DOH over the measles outbreak in Metro Manila, saying it should focus on disease prevention rather than hospital modernization.
“We are in a tropical country so we are prone to dengue, measles and the like. You cannot ignore disease prevention. Go back to basics,” PHAP president Rustico Jimenez said.
He said the DOH should have started a house-to-house vaccination campaign when it observed that measles cases were increasing, and not only now when there is an outbreak.
He said the agency should have scaled up its education and information campaign to encourage mothers to submit their children to vaccination at public health centers.
“They focused too much on PPP (Public-Private Partnership) investments and hospital enhancement. Now, children are getting sick and the government is spending more for the patients. It’s good for hospitals but we do not want that,” he added.
DOH Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag, however, denied PHAP’s allegations.
“It’s not true. The DOH is doing both hospital enhancement and disease prevention. The DOH knew that people will get sick (no matter what) so we are preparing the hospitals to serve them better,” he said.
Tayag cited the San Lazaro Hospital, the DOH’s referral center for measles and other infectious diseases. – Eva Visperas, Celso Amo, Ric Sapnu, Ben Serrano, Sheila Crisostomo, Jess Diaz