DOH: Measles outbreak could affect tourism, OFWs 

THE Philippines’ Department of Health (DOH) on Tuesday, February 19, said that the measles outbreak in the country could negatively affect the tourism and overseas labor sectors if not contained as soon as possible. 

Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo revealed that foreign countries may be forced to issue travel advisories against traveling to the Philippines if the measles outbreak is not contained. 

“If we fail to control the outbreak, you can’t stop other countries from giving travel advisories for their nationals not to go to the Philippines because of the measles epidemic,” Domingo said as reported by The Philippine Star. 

The health undersecretary noted that such an issue would be problematic for the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) since they need to secure medical clearance before they are permitted to work abroad.  

“Other possible consequences are Filipinos, including overseas workers, may be restricted to travel to other countries or will be asked to provide additional requirements such as vaccination records,” he added as reported by The Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Domingo said that countries have been inquiring about the measles situation in the Philippines. Hong Kong, for instance, is particularly concerned due to the heavy tourist traffic in both areas and the 200,000 OFWs deployed there. 

“Hong Kong has been declared measles-free. They expressed their concern about the measles outbreak here. We have many Filipinos traveling to Hong Kong,” the undersecretary said.

The health department Epidemiology Bureau together with the Bureau of Quarantine established health desks at major airports so that travelers and tourists could “voluntarily” walk in and sought for consultation should they feel sick.

“The people should be responsible to have themselves voluntarily checked before leaving the country. Because if other countries have this bad experience from us, there could be repercussions,” Domingo said.

“Sa mga tourist na papunta satin (To the incoming tourists), we want to assure them that everything is being done to contain the outbreaks and control it the soonest time possible,” he added. 

Death toll reaches 146

As of February 18, there are a total of 146 deaths and over 9,200 cases – mostly affecting children. Cases were concentrated in CALABARZON (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon) with 2,310 cases; National Capital Region (NCR) with 1,937 cases and Central Luzon with 1,387. 

In an article from CNN Philippines, World Health Organization (WHO) Philippines medical officer Achyut Shrestha said that the outbreak also affects adolescent and adult populations. 

“Upon analyzing 2018 measles cases, 10 percent of the cases are in the age bracket of five years to 15 years and further 20 percent are from 15 years up to 40 plus years,” Shrestha said. 

“Whenever the unvaccinated under five years population reach a certain threshold due to continued vulnerability of higher age groups, Philippines experiences large measles outbreaks,” she added. 

Eliminate the outbreak by May

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said that the department plan to eliminate the epidemic by May 2019. He said that they “are intensifying vaccination in all regions because we don’t want measles to spread further.” 

 They increased the immunization program by vaccinating 12 to 14 million children, including 2.4 million infants aged six to 59 months; seven to eight million grade schoolers and pre-schoolers and 2.6 million adults.

“Buong Kamaynilan ang kanila pong mga kinatawan ay sumang-ayon na habaan ang oras. Ang mga bakunahan tuwing Sabado at nakikiusap ako pwede pong pati Linggo (Representatives in the whole of Metro Manila agreed to extend their working time. Conduct vaccination on Saturdays, and if need be, even on Sundays),” Duque said as reported by UNTV. 

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