DOH-Bicol on ‘red flag’ over measles cases

LEGAZPI CITY -- The Department of Health (DOH) in Bicol (Region 5) on Friday has raised a “red flag” health alert status over the surge of measles cases in the region with 424 reported cases.

Dr. Ernie Vera, DOH acting regional director, in a phone interview said the raising of the alert status is a health countermeasure that would place measles under careful watch to prevent an outbreak in Bicol.

Vera citing a report said as of January to February 28 this year, records from various provincial health offices showed 424 measles cases with six deaths.

Vera said Albay with 124 cases had the highest incidence followed by Camarines Sur with 109 cases; Sorsogon, 85; Masbate, 83; Camarines Norte, 21; and Catanduanes with one case.

At least six children -- three from Masbate, one each in Albay, Camarines Sur, and Sorsogon -- had died from the illness.

DOH study points to vaccine hesitancy as one of the reasons for the measles outbreak.

Department’s data indicate that from January to February this year, a total of 11,459 confirmed cases of measles were recorded, with 189 fatalities as of February 20.

Vera said health measures are already in place to quickly respond to mitigate a possible outbreak, saying “we are taking these measures one to two steps ahead to prevent an outbreak.”

When asked if the measles incidents in Bicol could be declared as an outbreak, Vera said the determination would depend on given parameters, which in the case of Bicol the incidence has yet to reach the given threshold for it to be declared as an outbreak.

However, quoting the DOH Epidemiology Bureau report, Vera said Ilocos Region, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Mimaropa, and Bicol have shown an increasing trend.

To address the possible measles outbreak, the agency is pushing for mandatory immunization as countermeasure to prevent a possible outbreak.

It has also established a measles fast lane in all government hospitals in the six provinces and key cities and towns of the region.

“Vaccination will be done in schools and in communities, until such time that no measles cases are reported, adults who want to be vaccinated against measles can visit any health center,” Vera said. (by Mar Serrano, PNA)