The Department of Health (DOH) declared a measles outbreak in Metro Manila with a spike in measles in cases, while placing several regions under tight watch.
Immunization and vitamin A supplementation of 9-month-old children are the best defenses against measles, the DOH said.
The measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine is recommended for children because it protects against three potentially serious viral illnesses.
Measles starts as a fever, cough, runny nose, conjunctivitis (pink eye), and a red, pinpoint rash that starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body. If the virus infects the lungs, it can cause pneumonia. Measles in older children can lead to inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), which can cause seizures and brain damage. The risk of death due to measles is greater for infants and adults than for children and adolescents. Contracting measles during pregnancy increases the risk of premature labor, spontaneous abortion and low birth weight.
The mumps virus usually causes swelling in glands just below the ears (“chipmunk cheeks”). Before the MMR vaccine was developed, mumps was the most common cause of both meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord) and acquired deafness in the U.S. In men, mumps can infect the testicles, which can lead to infertility.
Rubella, also known as German measles, can cause a mild rash on the face, swelling of glands behind the ears, and in some cases, swelling of the small joints and low-grade fever. Most children recover quickly with no lasting effects. But if a pregnant woman gets rubella during the first trimester of pregnancy, there is at least a 20% chance her child will have a birth defect such as blindness, deafness, a heart defect, or mental retardation.
Under the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) of the DOH, the first dose of the MMR vaccine is administered to children aged between 9 and 11 months old while the second dose is given at age 12-15 months old.
On February 6, the Philippine Pediatric Society (PPS) and the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society of the Philippines (PIDSP) issued an urgent plea to their fellow doctors. Among others, they asked individual clinicians to:
a) ensure up-to-date immunization of all their patients;
b) provide the first dose of measles-containing vaccine (monovalent, MR, MMR) to infants starting at the age of 6 months instead of the usual 9 months of age; and,
c) for children who received their first dose of measles-containing vaccine at age younger than 12 months, provide two additional doses of MR or MMR, minimum of four weeks apart, beginning at 1 year of age.
In their letter, the PPS and PIDSP have also given a recommendation for individuals older than 12 months without a history of measles disease, not pregnant, with no immunocompromising conditions or allergic reaction to a previous dose of measles-containing vaccine.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), vaccination is one of the most cost-effective ways of avoiding disease – it currently prevents 2-3 million deaths a year, and a further 1.5 million could be avoided if global coverage of vaccinations improved.
The WHO defines “vaccine hesitancy” as the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccines. A vaccines advisory group to WHO identified complacency, inconvenience in accessing vaccines, and lack of confidence are key reasons underlying hesitancy.
Health workers, especially those in communities, remain the most trusted advisor and influencer of vaccination decisions, and they must be supported to provide trusted, credible information on vaccines, the WHO stresses.
For more information on the prevention, early treatment and management of measles, consult a physician.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.