Philippine health department declares measles outbreak in Metro Manila

The Philippines fights the outbreak of measles in the capital region

The Philippines health department on Thursday declared an outbreak of measles in the capital Manila and nearby areas, after the disease left dozens dead.

The Department of Health (DOH) said Wednesday there had been 441 cases measles in the Manila metropolitan area as of January 26, compared to 36 cases in 2018.

"The DOH is advising mothers, the public to bring their children at the first sign of fever to the nearest health facility for prompt treatment and proper case management", said recently by Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.

The DOH also declared a measles outbreak in Ilocos, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon), Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan) and Bicol.

Dr. Mary Jane Juanico, medical coordinator of the regional health office's Child Health Program, said they still have to determine if the deaths were caused by measles. In Metro Manila, meanwhile, there were five deaths, and in Luzon, there were 192 cases and four deaths.

In late 2017, French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi, which licensed Dengvaxia, disclosed that the vaccine, in rare cases, could indeed backfire: If children who never had dengue are vaccinated and later become infected, the vaccine may provoke a much more severe form of the illness. Then-president Benigno Aquino approved its release before he stepped down in 2016 and the vaccine was administered to children in public elementary schools.

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"The measles vaccination coverage has been in decline in the last five years", Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo told a press conference Thursday.

He said the main target for vaccination this time was measles because it was very contagious and could quickly spread.

Found in Manila, the hospital is known as a referral center for infectious diseases of the DOH and has seen 1,355 cases of measles as of February 5, 2019.

At least 22 people, mostly children, have died but the tally is expected to rise. "They were scared", Panelo said. This represents a 74 per cent increase on the same period of a year ago.

The country's Public Attorney's Office indicted government officials in connection with deaths linked to the vaccine. "We all have a role to play to ensure that families are supported in overcoming barriers, and that children complete their vaccines", it said.

"I hope concerns like this should not be politicized because the lives of the children are at stake here", she said.

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