Measles cases hit 1,724 in 2013
Sheila Crisostomo (The Philippine Star) - January 5, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Health (DOH) is studying if a virus from abroad is causing the increase in measles cases in the country, following the affliction of 744 individuals in Metro Manila alone in 2013.

“Measles virus has different strains. We are checking if the cases were caused by a virus that originated in the Philippines or by a virus that came from abroad,” said DOH Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag.

Records of the DOH’s National Epidemiology Center (NEC) showed that from Jan. 1 to Dec. 14, there were 1,724 measles cases nationwide. This includes the 21 deaths from “laboratory-confirmed” cases at the San Lazaro Hospital.

Metro Manila had the highest number of cases at 744, followed by Southern Luzon with 436 and Western Visayas with 282 cases.

In 2012, the NEC registered 1,536 cases.

Tayag said measles usually peak in the country during summer but starting September 2013, the DOH has observed a rise in cases.

“We are studying how this happened because our worry is that there will be more cases when summer comes,” he added.

Records also showed that only four of the 17 regions did not report an increase in measles. These are Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Northern Mindanao and Caraga.

In Metro Manila, the measles outbreaks are in Dagat-dagatan and Bagong Barrio in Caloocan City; Talon Singko, Talon Dos and Pamplona 1 in Las Piñas City; Longos and Tonsuya in Malabon; Quiapo, Sampaloc, Tondo, Sta. Cruz, Binondo, Sta. Mesa and Port Area in Manila; Alabang and Putatan in Muntinlupa; North Bay Boulevard in Navotas; Moonwalk and Don Bosco in Parañaque; Bagong Tanyag in Taguig; and Ugong in Valenzuela.

“At the San Lazaro Hospital, they already converted four pavilions into measles rooms and they are expecting cases to increase more,” Tayag said.

Each pavilion has a bed capacity of 60 but Pavilion 1 alone already has 93 cases as of Friday.

Tayag said that mass vaccination has been conducted in areas where there is an outbreak. This is on top of the routine immunization being done at the health centers there.

He also said that in the coming school break, the DOH would be doing mass vaccination against measles nationwide among 11.7 million children below five years old, whether or not they have been vaccinated in the past.

Binay questions anti-measles drive

Meanwhile, Sen. Nancy Binay is questioning the way the DOH is implementing its immunization program, particularly the campaign to eradicate measles, because many cases are being reported in various parts of the country.

The DOH has an annual budget of over P2 billion for its immunization program, part of which is the effort to immunize households against measles. It involves mass vaccination of children aged nine months to 15 years as it aimed to achieve a zero-measles target in 2008.

Binay noted that the DOH should have completed its Ligtas Tigdas measles immunization program in 2008 or 15 years after it was first launched.

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