Measles on the rise in CSur, Albay

DOH Regional Director Gloria Balboa
A total of 29 measles cases has been recorded in Bicol region in the first 15 days of this year alone, a regional official of the Department of Health Bicol (DOH-Bicol) said.

DOH Bicol regional director Gloria Balboa said Camarines Sur has 14 cases; followed by Albay, with 12; Sorsogon province, two; and Masbate, one. No measles cases were reported in Catanduanes and Camarines Norte.

A week after the DOH-Bicol warned the public as well as health and local officials of increasing measles cases, a Grade 1 pupil in Albay province reportedly died due to measles.

The measles death was identified as Anthony Buella, 7, from Hacienda San Miguel Island in Tabaco City.

Nathaniel Rempillo, provincial health officer of Albay, refused to confirm the report, saying they were still in the process of investigation.

Health officials in Bicol said measles is one of the leading causes of death among infants and young children even though a safe and cost-effective vaccine is available.

Rempillo said that out of 12 sent for laboratory testing in Albay, two were confirmed measles cases.

This prompted Balboa to ask local government units across the region to strive harder to conduct active immunization activities against vaccine-preventable diseases, especially measles, to reach every child in every purok of each barangay.

"There is a need to adopt a door-to-door immunization, in addition to the fixed site strategy,” Balboa said.

Children eligible for vaccination who did not receive their measles vaccines during their childhood, especially at the age of six months to less than 5 years old, form part of a "pool of susceptibles” where cases of measles may originate.

"And that is where an outbreak may occur,” Balboa added.Globally, according to the health official, in 2011, there were 158,000 measles deaths globally -- about 430 deaths every day or 18 deaths every hour.

More than 95 percent of measles deaths occur in low-income countries with weak health infrastructures.

Measles vaccination resulted in a 71-percent drop in measles deaths between 2000 and 2011 worldwide.

In 2011, about 84 percent of the world’s children received measles vaccine by their first birthday through routine health services – up from 72 percent in 2000, according to DOH report.

In Philippines, a total of 5,547 suspect measles cases were reported nationwide from Jan. 1 to Dec. 14 last year.

The age of suspect measles cases ranged from one month to 78 years old; while most of the confirmed cases were one to 4 years old wherein majority were female with 51 percent.

The first sign of measles is usually high fever, which begins at about 10 to 12 days after exposure to the virus, and lasts for four to seven days.

Runny nose, cough, red and watery eyes, and small white spots inside the cheeks can develop in the initial stage.

After several days, a red rash erupts, usually on the face and upper neck.

Over about three days, the rash spreads, eventually reaching the hands and feet. The rash lasts for five to six days, and then fades.

On the average, the rash occurs 14 days after exposure to the virus (within a range of seven to 18 days).

Severe measles is more likely among poorly nourished young children, especially those with insufficient Vitamin A, or whose immune systems are weak.

Most measles-related deaths are caused by complications associated with the disease.

Complications are more common in children under the age of five, or adults over the age of 20.

The most serious complications include severe respiratory infections such as pneumonia; severe diarrhea, dehydration encephalitis (an infection that causes brain swelling), ear infections and blindness.

As high as 10 percent of measles cases result in death among populations with high levels of malnutrition and a lack of adequate health care.

Women infected while pregnant are also at risk of severe complications and the pregnancy may end in miscarriage or preterm delivery.

People who recover from measles are immune for the rest of their lives.

The most at risk for measles, according to Balboa, are those unvaccinated infants and children, and even unvaccinated pregnant women.

Measles outbreaks can be particularly deadly in countries experiencing or recovering from a natural disaster or conflict, Balboa said.

Damage to health infrastructure and health services interrupts routine immunization and overcrowding in residential camps greatly increases the risk of infection.

The virus is spread by coughing and sneezing, close personal contact or direct contact with infected nasal or throat secretions.

The virus remains active and contagious in the air or on infected surfaces for up to two hours.

It can be transmitted by an infected person from four days prior to the onset of the rash to four days after the rash erupts.

No specific antiviral treatment exists for measles virus, Balboa said, adding that severe complications from measles can be avoided though supportive care that ensures good nutrition, adequate fluid intake and treatment of dehydration with WHO-recommended oral rehydration solution.

This solution replaces fluids and other essential elements that are lost through diarrhea or vomiting.

All children in developing countries diagnosed with measles should receive two doses of vitamin A supplements, given 24 hours apart, Balboa said.

She explained that this treatment restores low vitamin A levels during measles that occur even in well-nourished children and can help prevent eye damage and blindness.

Vitamin A supplements have been shown to reduce the number of deaths from measles by 50 percent.

Balboa said routine measles vaccination for children, combined with mass immunization campaigns in countries with high case and death rates, is key public health strategies to reduce global measles deaths.

The measles vaccine has been in use for over 40 years and it is safe, effective and inexpensive. (PNA) FFC/FGS/RBB/CBD/


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