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Measles spreads to Mindanao

Sarangani: Rise in cases alarming

The measles scare has reached Mindanao as health personnel in Sarangani Province are closely monitoring several villages in at least two municipalities due to the “alarming” rise in cases of the highly contagious disease since last month.

Dr. Arvin Alejandro, Provincial Health Office chief, said they have dispatched teams to treat cases of suspected measles and conduct immunization activities in Alabel and Malungon towns to control the spread of the disease.

Since the first week of January, he said that they have already recorded a total of 48 cases of measles in the entire province.

The official said most of these cases were mainly from two areas―Barangays Poblacion of Alabel and Poblacion of Malungon.

“About 85 to 90 of the cases involved infants and children who were not immunized for measles,” he said in an interview over Brigada News FM.

Alejandro said such a situation was also found among children in other areas, where measles cases were reported since last year.

He cited the outbreak from November to December in Barangay Upper Suyan, Malapatan town that killed 23 children and affected 144 residents.

Citing their records, he said that about 95 percent of the children infected with measles in Upper Suyan had no history of immunization.

Alejandro admitted that there were areas not reached by health teams during the immunization activities last year due to their remoteness and inaccessibility due to security problems.

He said some parents refused immunization for their children due to the Dengvaxia controversy.

Alejandro said they consider the current measles incidence in the area as “alarming” and are regularly updating the Department of Health-Region 12 and central office to facilitate the needed interventions.

On Monday, he said, the DOH relayed guidelines to their office for the conduct of a massive measles immunization drive.

Infants and children aged nine to 59 months should be immunized for measles, which is given in two doses, he said.

He said the province has enough supply of vaccines and these were already distributed to the seven municipal health offices.

“We’re not just focusing our immunization activities on infants and children. We’re also covering adults, especially mothers, to ensure that households are protected,” he added.

The Integrated Provincial Health Office of South Cotabato, meanwhile, has stepped up its monitoring and vaccination activities against measles as suspected cases continued to increase since last month.

Dr. Rogelio Aturdido Jr., chief IPHO, said Wednesday they already recorded at least 39 cases of measles infection from Jan. 1 to Feb. 11 in six of the province’s 10 towns and lone city.

Aturdido said Polomolok town posted the most number of cases with 26 and with one fatality, followed by Koronadal City with four, Norala and Banga with three each, Tampakan with two and Surallah with one.

A four-month-old baby from Polomolok died Sunday to complications caused by suspected measles, he said.

“South Cotabato is one of the hotspots [for measles], in Region 12 [Soccsksargen] in general. We cannot just sleep on it,” the IPHO said.

Citing a report from the IPHO’s epidemiology and surveillance unit, Aturdido said most of the cases involved infants and children, with the youngest at four months old.

“Most of the patients did not have a history of immunization for measles,” Aturdido said.

The IPHO recorded at least 128 suspected measles cases during the first half of 2018, with two deaths reported in Koronadal City and T’boli town.

The official said they are currently conducting catch-up measles immunization activities in the entire province, especially in the affected areas, to prevent further spread of the disease.

Senator Richard Gordon called for urgent efforts to increase vaccination coverage.

READ: Measles outbreak: Politics rears ugly head

At a meeting of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council meeting, Gordon, chairman of the Philippine Red Cross, said the Department of Health should boost its information drive on the importance of immunization to close the gaps in vaccination coverage. 

“What you need right now is a call to arms to make sure that everybody is conscious of the need to immunize and that kids must be immunized. The vaccination gap should be closed,” he said.

“You have to exert more effort to dispel the peoples’ ungrounded fears about vaccination. You have to make the public understand that they should not fear and disregard the vaccines included under the Expanded Program on Immunization because these vaccines are safe,” he added,

Gordon noted that while the Dengvaxia controversy may have contributed to the significant drop in vaccine confidence last year, although a declining trend in vaccination coverage had already been noted since 2014.

He warned against declaring a state of calamity at present since the number of measles cases is still manageable and does not yet justify such declaration.

“There’s no need to create a national emergency here. We’re not in danger of a pandemic or an epidemic right now. It’s manageable,” he said.

Meanwhile, the local government of Kawayan, Biliran issued an executive order declaring a dengue outbreak in the entire town on Wednesday.

Mayor Rodolfo Espina Sr. said the declaration is in response to the recommendation of the town’s health office to put the town under dengue outbreak status after the illness killed a 5-year-old boy

and downed 81 others in 10 villages during the first six weeks of 2019.

The villages with clustered cases are Mapuyo, Tucdao, Kansanoc, Burabod, Ungale, Madao, Villa Cornejo, Poblacion, Balite, and Balacson.

Christine Balasbas, the town’s health officer, said in a phone interview on Thursday that some patients are still being treated. Fogging operations are being done in areas affected by dengue.

The coastal town of Kawayan is about 128 kilometers northwest of Tacloban, the regional capital.

The Department of Health regional office said aside from the measles outbreak, they are also looking at the rising dengue cases in the region.

The region recorded 11,023 dengue cases with 61 deaths in 2018. For Jan. 1 to Feb. 9, a total of 1,169 cases were recorded by the Health department.

Of the 1,169 cases in the region, 396 have been recorded in Samar, 254 in Leyte, 244 in Northern Samar, 171 in Biliran, 65 in Eastern Samar, and 39 in Southern Leyte.

READ: PAO chief: Vaccines lack led to measles outbreak

In the past five weeks, dengue deaths have been reported in Kawayan, Biliran; Tacloban City, and Guiuan, Eastern Samar.

The DOH official reminded the public that those who experience fever should immediately seek medical attention.

Those who suffered dengue after their hospitalization should have a regular check-up for 10 days to monitor their condition.

“If they turn positive in a rapid diagnostic test, it is very important that patients should stay in the hospital,” the DOH said.

The DOH repeatedly asked communities to continue the search and destroy activities for the breeding ground of mosquitoes as these are the most effective strategy to combat dengue. With PNA

READ: Measles outbreak: 70 dead

Topics: Sarangani Province , measles , Arvin Alejandro , Provincial Health Office , Dengvaxia , Department of Health
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