MANILA (2ND UPDATE) — The Department of Health (DOH) on Wednesday confirmed outbreaks of measles in the National Capital Region (NCR) and in Central Luzon.
Cases of measles, locally known as "tigdas," in NCR rose by 550 percent from January 1 to February 6, 2019 compared to the same period last year, said Health Secretary Francisco Duque.
The DOH recorded 196 cases of measles in NCR from January 1 to February 6 this year, higher than the 20 cases recorded in the same period last year.
Since January, at least 55 deaths from measles were recorded at the San Lazaro Hospital in Manila, most of them children aged 3 months to 4 years old.
At least 248 children were being treated for the disease at the San Lazaro Hospital, as of Tuesday morning.
In Central Luzon, Dr. Jesse Fantone, chief of the DOH's Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit, confirmed the outbreak.
"Yes, it’s an outbreak," Fantone said.
As of Feb. 2, the DOH in Central Luzon has recorded 442 suspected cases of measles.
Speaking to ANC, DOH spokesperson Roland Domingo said several other regions are also under "tight watch" for a measles outbreak.
Among these are the Ilocos Region, Cagayan Valley, Cordillera Administrative Region, and the Caraga Region.
Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo earlier urged parents to have their children vaccinated against the infectious disease.
Vaccine for measles are free in local health centers, the DOH reiterated.
The DOH, in a statement, urged the public to bring all suspected cases to the nearest health facility for early treatment.
Unvaccinated young children are at highest risk of measles, an airborne disease that infects the respiratory tract, and its complications include severe diarrhea, pneumonia, blindness, and even death.
More than 2 million Filipino children are at risk of getting infected with measles due to lack of immunization, Dr. Ruby Constantino, director of the DOH Disease Prevention and Control Bureau earlier said.
The Philippines saw a four-fold jump in measles cases from 4,000 cases in 2017 to 21,000 cases last year.
Constantino attributed the increase to the Dengvaxia scare which eroded Filipinos' trust in vaccines.
-- With a report from Trisha Mostoles, ABS-CBN News