Zamboanga Peninsula

Zamboanga Peninsula most at risk as measles cases surge

Gualberto Laput
Zamboanga Peninsula most at risk as measles cases surge


Zamboanga del Norte accounts for almost half of the measles cases in the entire country from January to mid-March

ZAMBOANGA DEL NORTE, Philippines – Health officials in Zamboanga del Norte have expressed concern over a sharp rise in reported measles cases in the Zamboanga Peninsula region and elsewhere in the country. 

Dr. Joshua Brillantes, Department of Health (DOH) director in the Zamboanga Peninsula, confirmed that Zamboanga del Norte had reported 59 cases of measles, almost half of the cases in the entire country, from January to mid-March. 

Measles is an extremely infectious viral disease that spreads via respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or speaks. Typical symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose, red eyes, and a red rash that initially appears on the face and then spreads downwards. 

Crisis24, a company of Canada-based GardaWorld, has reported 108 measles cases in the Philippines from January to the end of February, with the Zamboanga Peninsula being the region most at risk. 

It was reportedly a significant increase compared to only nine cases reported during the same period in 2022. 

ONLY ONE CASE OF MANY. The Corazon C. Aquino Hospital admits only one of 36 measles cases in Dipolog City in Zamboanga del Norte, a province that registers more than 50 measles cases from January to mid-March. – Gualberto Laput / Rappler

Brillantes said on Tuesday, March 21, that while only one case in February was confirmed as measles by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, the remaining 55 cases were clinically diagnosed measles cases based on symptoms. Three others, he said, turned out to be non-measles cases.

He said the situation could potentially develop into an outbreak and was a cause for alarm given the absence of measles cases in Zamboanga del Norte during the same months in 2022. 

Brillante said he was concerned about the low vaccination coverage in Zamboanga del Norte, where the number of measles cases has surged since January. 

With only 57% coverage achieved in the past 20 years, the province’s vaccination rate falls well below the 95% target required to prevent the spread of measles.

Dr. Jane Jaug, DOH-Zamboanga del Norte Provincial Health Team leader, said it was wrong to see this as inefficiency on the part of the government concerning its measles vaccination efforts.

“No, we cannot call that inefficiency – only when there is already a pandemic,” Jaug said.

The local health officials said the vaccination efforts were hampered by indifference, particularly among older individuals, as well as mothers’ hesitancy to go to health centers, religious and traditional practices, lack of education, and sometimes insufficient support from local governments.

A community health worker in Dipolog City said the use of traditional remedies such as the pa-ursa (a concoction of orchids, lukewarm water, unhusked rice, and other roots supposedly to rid the body of a disease) in remote villages further complicates the issue. 

As a result, the DOH said they would scale up the anti-measles vaccination campaign throughout the Zamboanga Peninsula region in May. 

The campaign would include a massive education campaign, outreach to remote areas, and even house-to-house measles vaccinations for children up to two years old, said Brillantes.

He said the Zamboanga Peninsula has enough doses to launch a strengthened anti-measles vaccination campaign in May.

“In Zamboanga del Norte, vaccines are already in all our health units and we have already deployed our health workers in all barangays. We have to catch up with the measles immunization,” Jaug said. –

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