The Department of Health in Negros Oriental allayed public concern over the outbreak of measles in some areas of the province, saying that it is not that alarming yet.
Dr. Socrates Villamor, DOH-Negros Oriental chief, said the measles cases reported since January this year are minimal, but because of the government’s efforts to make the Philippines measles-free, even a single “laboratory-confirmed” case of measles can already be considered an “outbreak”.
Latest available records from the Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit of the NegOr DOH showed that 21 measles cases have been reported in Dumaguete City, and the towns of Bacong, Mabinay, Sta. Catalina, San Jose, Siaton, and Valencia.
Of the number, 12 are suspect cases and nine are laboratory-confirmed. The areas have now been declared under a state of “measles outbreak”.
Dumaguete had the highest number of cases with seven suspected and two laboratory-confirmed cases.
Villamor said the confirmed measles cases this year involved adults, and the incidents are sporadic and affected areas not clustered, although they are still trying to get some more data.
“What is important is that we want to cut the transmission (of the measles virus) as much as possible especially to children below five years old,” he said.
There is a possibility that those afflicted with measles may not have been immunized when they were children or their immunization status is incomplete, he added.
Measles is a highly contagious viral infection transmitted through secretions when people come in contact with those infected with the virus, and so it is important for people to pay attention to hygiene and to avoid crowded places.
Washing of hands regularly can also be a preventive measure against contracting measles.
The provincial DOH is now determining what they call the index case so they can investigate further the measles outbreak and see where it started.
Villamor has also called on parents to avail of the government’s free anti-measles immunization.
He said that some rural health units began the “outbreak immunization response” on Tuesday, and others on Wednesday, in the areas in Negros Oriental where cases of measles had been confirmed.
Villamor said health workers will conduct house-to-house visitation to administer the free anti-measles vaccine for children who have not been immunized, or who have not received the full dose of immunization for measles.
He said the government is continuing its measles immunization program, even if the number of cases had been drastically reduced and even eliminated in certain areas in the past years, as part of the government’s desire to make the Philippines measles-free.
The vaccine is part of the routine immunization for children, it consists of a first dose of the MR (measles-rubella) vaccine, given at nine months old, and the second dose, the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine, given at 12 to 15 months old, Villamor said.
To have protection against measles, a person must have received the two doses, he said.
Most vulnerable are children aged five and below, Villamor said, but he noted that recent cases of measles in Negros Oriental have affected adults, with the youngest patient about 18 years old.
Villamor said he believes that the adults may not have received or completed the anti-measles containment vaccines.*JFP/PNA
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