DOH sets measles immunization drive throughout Bicol
By Marlon Loterte LEGAZPI CITY --- The regional office of the Department of Health in Bicol will conduct a regionwide immunization program, dubbed “Ligtas Tigdas” to prevent and control the spread of measles, especially among children. “Sa Bicol region, sa Setyembre pa ang plano. Pero mauuna na sa Camarines Sur dahil may mga suspected cases na ng measles or tigdas na naitala (We plan to do the immunization in September this year in the Bicol region, yet we will do it earlier in Camarines Sur in the wake of suspected cases of measles recorded by the health office,” Maria June Robles, Immunization Program coordinator of DOH Bicol, said. Robles said that the immunization program in Camarines Sur will start within this month of May or early part of June to immediately address the reported cases of measles. Camarines Sur, according to the official, has recorded some 16 suspected measles cases from January 1 to April 21, 2018. Increasing number of suspected measles cases have been traced in Goa, Camarines Sur, particularly in Barangays Bagumbayan Pequeño and Panday, both in the town’s poblacion area. The target for this immunization program are children aged 6 to 59 months and 5 years old below. DOH health officers and staff will conduct house to house visitation to perform immunization. Fixed sites will also be set up where the parents can bring their children to be immunized. Meanwhile, when told about people’s apprehensions as a result of the Dengvaxia anti-dengue controversy, Robles emphasized that measles vaccine is one of the safest vaccines being applied such that parents need not worry about its negative effects. She explained that routine measles immunization have been conducted even on babies since 1972. Measles can lead to death if not prevented. Complications like severe respiratory infections such as pneumonia, severe diarrhea and related dehydration, encephalitis (an infection that causes brain swelling), ear infections, and blindness can happen and may lead to death. Unvaccinated infants, young children, and pregnant women as well as any non-immune person are at risk with infection. Severe measles more likely attack malnourished children, especially those with insufficient vitamin A, or those whose immune systems have been weakened by HIV/AIDS or other diseases. Its signs and symptoms are high fever that lasts for four to seven days. Runny nose, cough, red and watery eyes, and small white spots inside the cheeks can develop in the initial stage. After several days, a red rash erupts, usually on the face and upper neck. Over about three days, the rash spreads, eventually reaching the hands and feet. The rash lasts for five to six days, and then fades. On average, the rash occurs 14 days after exposure to the virus. The virus is spread by coughing and sneezing, and close personal contact or direct contact with infected nasal or throat secretions. There is no specific antiviral treatment that exists for measles virus. That is the reason why routine measles vaccination is needed for the children. “Prevention is better than cure,” reminded Robles.