AFTER nearly a decade of slackening, measles is on the march again worldwide, health authorities reported.
In the Philippines, a rise in measles cases has raised concerns that an epidemic could develop.
In Metro Manila alone, the Department of Health (DOH) has reported 1,724 cases at San Lazaro Hospital from 2013 to January 2, 2014 resulting in 75 deaths.
Of the 500 beds in San Lazaro 261 are occupied by measles patients.
The new surge has prompted neophyte Sen. Nancy Binay to ask what went wrong with the government’s immunization program called “Ligtas Tigdas.”
In a statement on Saturday, Binay said: “what happened to the P2 billion allotted for the expanded immunization program “ This year it is budgeted at P2.85 billion.
She posed more questions: “What happened to the vaccines the government bought in the last 15 years? Were they used or did they just allow them to expire. How many children benefited from the program? Why (was there) no follow up?
Binay will file a resolution next week calling for a full review of the government’s immunization programs, which she noted failed to achieve a “zero” measles record in 2008, or 10 years after the Philippine government committed itself in 1998 to undertake mass measles vaccination targeting children 9 months to 15 years old.
The “Ligtas Tigdas” campaign is a joint undertaking between the DOH, the local government units, the Department of Education and the Department of Interior and Local Government.
The DOH NCR’s Regional Epidemiology Surveillance Unit recorded 233 confirmed measles cases from January 1 to December 14, more than 600 percent higher than during the same period last year.
“Ligtas Tigdas” aimed for a “zero” measles target by 2008. Children between 6 and 48 months old were supposed to get free shots in two doses. Booster shots are administered to those who have previously received immunization.
Caused by a virus, measles is extremely contagious, and is spread through coughing, sneezing and even breathing and infecting anyone who has not been vaccinated or had the disease before.
Measles is characterized by a rash that spreads quickly to cover most parts of the face and the whole body, including the lower extremities.
The DOH National Capital Region (NCR) last week urged residents to take precaution after measles cases went up in some parts of the metropolis this year.
From only 25 cases recorded in 2012, 179 were recorded this year as of December 10, DOH-NCR Director Eduardo Janairo said.
The ages of those afflicted ranged from one month to 37 years.
Most of them, Janairo said, were the one- to four-year age-group, majority of them males.
DOH data showed that only four of the country’s 17 regions—Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Northern Mindanao and CARAGA—did not report an increase in the number of measles cases.
In 2013, Metro Manila had the biggest number of cases with 744, followed by Southern Luzon with 436 and Western Visayas, 282.
Outbreaks were noted in Dagat Dagatan and Bagong Barrio in Caloocan City; Talong Singko, Talon Dos and Pamplona 1, 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 South in Navotas; Moonwalk and Don Bosco in Paranaque; Bagong Tanyag in Taguig and Ugong in Valenzuela.
DOH Assistant Secretary Dr. Enrique Tayag said the department held free mass vaccination against measles during the school break.
“Around 11.7 million children below five years old will be vaccinated, regardless of their immunization history. Teams will be deployed to do house-to-house vaccination,” Tayag said.
“If you believe you are exposed to someone with measles, you should observe for measles symptoms to appear after nine days,” Janairo warned. “Some person can be affected immediately before the rash appears four days after being exposed.”
Janairo said it usually begins with common cold symptoms like high fever, cough, runny nose, sore red eyes that can last for several days before the appearance of a red, blotchy rash.
Everyone, especially children up to 12 years old, should have measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) shots and all other age-appropriate immunizations.
The DOH urged the public to report suspected measles cases to a health care provider before going to a hospital as a suspected measles case must first be evaluated as a precaution and protection to other patients and health workers from possible infection. Those with measles symptoms should refrain from going out to avoid putting others at risk.
In 2010, measles outbreaks in parts of Europe and Africa infected some 60,000 more people worldwide than the previous year, after nearly a decade of decline, US health authorities said on Thursday.
A boost in global efforts to vaccinate people against measles brought the cases down from more than 853,000 in 2000 to nearly 278,000 in 2008.
The figure remained stable in 2009.
But 2010 saw an increase to 339,845 measles cases, driven largely by outbreaks in Africa and Europe, said the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly report.
The rise came despite increasing global vaccine coverage of at least one dose against measles to 85 percent of the world in 2010, up from 72 percent in 2000.
Vietnam had 9,391 cases and the Philippines reported 6,368.