MANILA - Seventy measles-infected individuals nationwide have died as of Sunday evening, an official of the Department of Health said.
For January 1 to February 9, 2019, some 4,300 individuals, have been infected with the contagious disease, said Usec. Eric Domingo. In the National Capital Region alone, there were 575 cases with 9 deaths.
The outbreak of the disease in areas across the country was a result of many different factors, such as a the low immunization rate in the last 5 years, which was aggravated in 2018 by parents’ fear of vaccines’ side effects following the Dengvaxia controversy, he said.
Apart from this, of all the preventable diseases, measles is also the most easily transmissible because it's airborne, said Domingo. Children who are vulnerable quickly catch it.
"It’s not like polio, where it has to get into the water and the water has to be taken and the child has to be unprotected. This one, ang daling mahawa kaya it spreads like wildfire every time you have low immunization coverage in one area," he told ANC's Headstart.
One to two percent of the children who get measles in the Philippines die, he said. Most of these fatalities are those who are less a year old who don’t have the resistance yet against the illness.
Weak and malnourished children who contact measles are more prone to developing complications, including pneumonia, he said.
"Once pneumonia sets in and then you get secondary bacterial infections, tuloy-tuloy na, mabilis downhill kasi yung maliit na bata, the health system is so fragile," he added.
Last week, pediatricians urged parents to have their babies vaccinated against measles earlier than the recommended age, following the declaration of a measles outbreak in several areas in the Philippines.
In a statement released Wednesday, the Philippine Pediatric Society and the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society of the Philippines urged parents to have their babies vaccinated at 6 months old.
The doctors advised parents to provide the first dose of measles-containing vaccine (monovalent measles, MR, MMR) earlier than the usual 9 months.
For children who received the first dose of measles-containing vaccine at age younger than 12 months, they can get two additional doses of MR or MMR, minimum of 4 weeks apart, beginning at 1 year old.
Children older than 12 months of age, and adults without a history of measles, not pregnant or planning to become pregnant in 4 weeks and with no allergic reaction to a previous dose of measles-containing vaccine, are advised to get a dose of monovalent measles, MR or MMR. A second dose of vaccine may also be given to complete the 2-dose schedule.
Measles, caused by a virus that infects the respiratory tract, can be passed through direct contact and through the air. Its complications include severe diarrhea, pneumonia, blindness, and even death, according to the Department of Health.
Symptoms of measles include fever, reddening of the eyes, cough and colds, and red rashes, the agency added.