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DOH Calabarzon creates task force to address increase in measles cases

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) Calabarzon office formed a task force to address the rising number of measles cases in the region, DOH Calabarzon Regional Director Eduardo Janairo said on Monday, February 11.

"A measles task force will be created to see to it that the strategies and plans will be implemented accordingly and also to address the needs of the measles patients," Janairo said.

The task force will be in charge of the following:

Calabarzon is the region with the highest number of deaths due to measles. Data from the Epidemiology Bureau showed there have been at least 25 deaths in the region as of Sunday, February 10. (READ: At least 70 deaths due to measles – DOH)

Next to Metro Manila, Calabarzon has the second highest number of measles cases with 1,086 verified cases from January 1 to February 10. This is 2,917% higher than the previous year's figures for the same period, when there were 36 cases and 0 deaths. (READ: DOH: Rizal, Laguna, Batangas top measles cases in Calabarzon)

Janairo said there is a need to create a uniform strategy to tackle the surge in cases of measles, which is a highly contagious disease.

According to data from DOH Calabarzon's Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit, of the 972 cases recorded as of Saturday, February 9, 359 individuals were not yet vaccinated.

Of this number, 174 did not have any record of their vaccination status. Meanwhile, 192 were below 9 months old – the age at which the first dose of the measles vaccine is usually given. (READ: EXPLAINER: When should one get vaccinated against measles?)

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III has pointed to people's wariness of vaccines as one of the top reasons why measles cases have soared.

In the wake of the Dengvaxia scare in late 2017, immunization rates plummeted and have barely recovered. (READ: Dengvaxia controversy: Immunization drops, measles outbreaks soar)

Janairo appealed to residents in Calabarzon to have their children receive the measles vaccine, which has long been proven to be safe and effective.

"Let us protect our children against measles. Bring them to your nearest health centers, and immunization centers that will be placed in public areas such as malls, churches, schools, and food chains. It is still the safest effective way to combat measles," he said.

The DOH earlier declared an outbreak in Metro Manila and expanded its coverage to other parts of Luzon as well as Central Visayas and Western Visayas. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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