Health department: Isolate infants below six months amid measles outbreak

The Philippines’ Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III urged the parents on Tuesday, February 12, to isolate their infants below six months old if there is a measles outbreak in the community.

Duque explained that it is still dangerous for infants aged five months and below to acquire a measles immunization shot since “their immune system is not yet fully developed.” However, he noted that such babies “have natural protection against measles that they acquired from their mothers.”

The health secretary advised that it is necessary for infants who tested positive with measles to be isolated. He stated that as a precaution, they must “let the body take care of its own” if there are several cases of measles in the community to prevent the spread of the disease.”

DOH originally conducted the immunization program among infants aged nine to 59 months as a move to contain the increasing number of measles cases. However, the health secretary noted that they expanded the coverage of the vaccination campaign so they could include infants aged six to nine months.

“In hospitals, there is triaging where infants are assessed by pediatricians to determine if they suffer from measles complications and need to be confined,” the health secretary said as reported by The Philippine Star.

Death toll at least 70

As of Monday, February 11, the health department revealed that there are at least 70 deaths in the said outbreak based on the cases recorded from January 1 to February 9, 2019. DOH recorded a total of 4,302 measles cases this year alone, with the majority of fatalities coming from CALABARZON Region (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon).

The Epidemiology Bureau said that such number constitute a 122 percent increase of cases as compared to the same period in 2018 with only 1,935 cases and 18 deaths. Majority of those who died were at least one month old to 31 years old.

Based on the DOH’s latest data, the majority of the cases are still concentrated in Metro Manila with 18 deaths among 1,296 cases. Followed by CALABARZON with 25 deaths among 1,086 cases. Central Luzon came at third with three deaths among 481 cases.

Western Visayas had four deaths with 212 cases, Northern Mindanao had two deaths with 189 cases, Eastern Visayas had seven deaths with 166 cases, MIMAROPA (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan had one death with 131 cases, Central Visayas had two deaths with 109 cases and Bicol has one death with 44 cases.

Duque said that the data from the bureau showed that 79 percent of the fatalities were not vaccinated. Thus, the DOH attributed the all-time-high increase to a vaccine scare created by the linking of children deaths to the controversial dengue immunization program — Dengvaxia.

Duque reminded the public to avail themselves of the free immunization shots in public health centers to curb the outbreak and ensure the safety of the general population. He noted that other vaccines were “long proven to be effective.” 

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