MANILA, Philippines - Amid the rising number of measles cases in several parts of the country, the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) has again included the disease in its list of benefit packages.
PhilHealth president and chief executive officer Alexander Padilla said they decided to cover measles to ensure that the medical needs of patients are adequately served.
“For the past two years, there was no admission for measles so we excluded it from our coverage. We are reviving it now,” Padilla said in a press forum.
He said the package for measles ranges from P7,000 to P32,000 depending on the complications.
760 measles cases hit Metro
The Department of Health (DOH) said yesterday that 760 suspected measles cases were recorded in Metro Manila alone from Jan. 1 to 11, with three deaths.
The figure is 7,500 percent higher than the 10 cases recorded during the same period last year.
Of the number, 42 cases were “measles compatible,” the DOH-National Capital Region said.
“The rest of the cases are awaiting classification... 36 percent of the cases were from Manila,” it said.
Parañaque City has the highest “attack rate of 2.09 per 10,000 population-at-risk,” the agency said.
Thirty-nine percent of those afflicted with the disease belonged to the 1-4 years age group. Sixty-seven of the cases had history of previous measles vaccination.
According to PhilHealth acting vice president for corporate affairs Israel Francis Pargas, measles usually does not require hospital confinement unless there are complications.
“Only those with complications like pneumonia, encephalitis and dehydration got confined. They were covered by PhilHealth not because of measles but because of complications,” he said.
Pargas said PhilHealth did not include measles in its new benefit packages that took effect last Jan. 1.
“But with all that is happening now, measles is included again in our case rates for confined patients only retroactive Jan. 1, 2014,” he added.
Measles cases in Bataan rose to 26 from 10 last week, Rosanna Buccahan, head of the provincial health office, said yesterday.
But Buccahan said the cases have yet to be confirmed as they are still awaiting results of laboratory tests from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine.
She said DOH-Region 3 has been conducting massive information drive to prevent an outbreak of the disease.
She urged mothers to bring their nine-month-old babies to health centers for vaccination.
Earlier, health authorities said they are targeting to vaccinate 375,000 children below five years old against measles.
DOH regional director Leilani Mangulabnan said the vaccination is part of the agency’s effort to contain the virus in Central Luzon.
She said nurses and health workers have been deployed in areas at high risk to the measles virus.
Anti-measles campaign in May
The DOH is planning to conduct a nationwide immunization campaign to prevent measles in May, several months earlier than the original schedule in September.
Health Undersecretary Ted Herbosa said Secretary Enrique Ona wanted the conduct of the nationwide supplemental immunization activity in May or June, before the start of classes.
“It will be synchronized, the whole country... It will be like a mopping up operation, if there are stragglers,” said Herbosa.
The immunization activity, conducted every three years based on the recommendation of the World Health Organization, was originally scheduled in September.
Reports said that around 13 million children are expected to be given anti-measles shots.
Earlier, the DOH declared a measles outbreak in some parts of Metro Manila. The number of measles cases in nearby provinces also increased.
Herbosa earlier said there is no new strain of measles in the country and that the increase in the number of cases last year was primarily caused by “unimmunized children.”
He noted that only 25 cases were recorded in Metro Manila in 2012, or a year after the last nationwide immunization program. He said more than 400 cases were recorded in the metropolis last year.
Herbosa led yesterday a symposium on infection control at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute in Quezon City. – With Ric Sapnu, Janvic Mateo