Measles cases on rising trend; no outbreak (yet) in Bicol

LEGAZPI CITY --- The Department of Health (DOH) in Bicol on Friday raised a “red flag” health alert status following the surge of measles cases, 424 of which have so far been reported in the region.

Dr. Ernie Vera, DOH acting regional director, said the raising of the alert status is a health countermeasure that would place the measles under careful watch to prevent an outbreak in Bicol.

Vera, quoting a report, said that for the period January to February 28 this year records from various provincial health offices show that 6 children have died out of the 424 measles cases reported.

Vera in an interview said Albay had the highest incidence with 124 cases, followed by Camarines Sur with 109 cases, Sorsogon-85, Masbate-83, Camarines Norte-21, and Catanduanes with only one case.

Of the six that had died, 3 were from Masbate, and one each from Albay, Camarines Sur, and Sorsogon. DOH study points to hesitance to submit to vaccine injection as one of the reasons for the measles outbreak.

DOH data indicate that from January to February this year, a total of 11,459 confirmed cases of measles were recorded nationwide, with 189 fatalities from January 1 to February 20 this year.

Vera said health measures are already in place to quickly respond to mitigate a possible outbreak, saying “we are taking these measures one to two steps ahead to prevent an outbreak.”

When asked if the measles incidents in Bicol could be declared as an outbreak, Vera said such possibility would depend on given parameters, which in the case of Bicol, measles cases have not yet reached the given threshold for it to be declared as an outbreak.

Still quoting a DOH Epidemiology Bureau report, Vera said there has been an increasing trend in the Ilocos region, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, CALABARZON, MIMAROPA, and Bicol.

The preventive measures include an aggressive information and immunization campaign that would encourage children to get vaccinated, he said.

To address the possible measles outbreak, the agency is pushing for mandatory immunization. It has also established measles fast lanes in all government hospitals in the six provinces and key cities and towns of the region.

“Vaccination will be done in schools and in communities, until such time that no measles cases are reported; adults who want to be vaccinated against measles can visit any health center,” Vera said.