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DOH records 40 deaths in Calabarzon measles outbreak

BATANGAS, Philippines – Forty people have died of measles in Calabarzon since the start of the year, according to the regional office of the Department of Health (DOH).

From January 1 to February 14,  the Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit recorded 1,645 measles cases with 40 death, compared to 66 cases and two deaths in the same period in 2018. (READ: FAST FACTS: What is measles and how can it be prevented?)

Antipolo City in Rizal recorded the highest number of measles cases in the region at 441, followed by Biñan City in Laguna with 126 cases, Rodriguez and Taytay towns in Rizal with 105 and 95, respectively, and  91 cases in Lipa City, Batangas. (READ: Measles cases in Philippines still rising – Duque)

DOH-Calabarzon held another emergency response meeting on Thursday, February 14, to address the rapidly increasing measles cases in the region that spans Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon. (READ: DOH Calabarzon creates task force to address increase in measles cases)

The meeting included provincial, city, and municipal health officers; National Immunization Program (NIP) coordinators; provincial health team officers; and development management officers of the region.

DOH Regional Director Eduardo Janairo outlined the latest directives and key strategies in the ongoing mass immunization against measles.

“We will be implementing key strategies on measles outbreak response including surveillance, public awareness and education, vaccination and taking care of measles patients in health care facilities,” Janairo said.

DOH will collaborate with the Department of Social Welfare and Development to ensure that students in DSWD day care centers are vaccinated, and with the Department of Education to ensure that all school children will get their dose of measles vaccine.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government will be asked the extend the immunization schedules beyond regular hours to implement a supplemental immunization activity from February to March, while the World Health Organization is expected to help in developing a checklist for local government units, Janairo said.

He added that the Armed Forces of the Philippines will aid in the deployment and safety of medical personnel in geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas and conflict areas, while the Philippine National Police and the Bureau of Fire Prevention will provide additional personnel and logistical support.

He said private partners will be requested to assist in the awareness campaign and to augment vaccination teams.

DOH Calabarzon is targeting the vaccination of 430,292 children in the region from a projected population of almost 16 million. (READ: Gov't conducts mass immunization campaign to fight measles outbreak)

“With everything in place, we are expecting cases to decrease next month,” Janairo said.

He said two doses of measles vaccine are about 97% effective in preventing measles, while one dose is only about 93% effective. (READ: EXPLAINER: When should one get vaccinated against measles?)

“That is why it is very important to have our children vaccinated twice starting with the first dose at 9 to 15 months of age, and the second dose at 4 through 6 years of age to ensure their protection," the health official said.

On February 12, DOH Calabarzon and the Biñan city government deployed vaccination centers in fast food chains in strategic areas to mark the start of the mass immunization activity in the province. – Rappler.com