DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 16 Jan) – Seventeen individuals tested positive for measles in the Davao Region last December, while Bukidnon also reported six suspected cases among children admitted in hospitals this week, sources said.
Divene Hilario, head of health education and promotion in the Davao Region of the Department of Health, said that the patients found to have measles come from Buhangin, Sasa, and poblacion in Davao City, Pantukan in Compostela Valley, and Panabo City.
She said the DOH already considered it an outbreak since there is more than one case, based on the criteria set by the World Health Organization’s.
The results came from around 200 blood samples the DOH regional office sent to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Muntinlupa, Metro Manila. The samples were taken from sentinel sites all over the region, as the patients already being monitored for measles symptoms like rashes, conjunctivitis, coughs, colds, and flu.
“The samples were sent to the RITM on Dec. 13 and the results came in this month,” Hilario said. “The areas mentioned are now being monitored.”
“But we are already considering it a risk in the community if there’s a positive case,” she said.
The potential for transmission, Hilario said, was 8 to 18 affected per one positive case, especially in areas with a high concentration of children who are not immunized against the disease.
She said they are prioritizing immunization on children below five years old as they are the most vulnerable to the disease. She said there were also cases involving young adults and the elderly.
The DOH is asking parents not to send children outside their homes if they exhibited measles-like symptoms.
She added that children 12-15 months old should also be immunized with booster doses even if they were already given measles shots.
The DOH official said the danger is not in the disease itself but through complications such as blindness, deafness, dehydration, pneumonia, and encephalitis.
“We’re looking out for these symptoms to prevent common complications,” she said.
Hilario said that the provincial epidemiology surveillance unit takes care of monitoring data in the region.
She added that there are also more samples being sent to the RITM, with the DOH still waiting for the January data.
This month, the Department of Education (DepEd) sent a memorandum for public schools to send home students displaying measles symptoms to prevent the spread of the disease.
The DepEd memo also ordered school officials to disseminate information about the disease, including information on immunization and coordination with local health units.
According to a copy of the City’s Investment Plan for Health (CIPH), Davao City’s number of fully immunized children (FIC) had increased from 86.4 percent in 2009 to 90.8 percent in 2010. But this was lower than the national FIC target of 95 percent.
“Most of our districts have declining trend in FIC coverage,” the report said, adding that regular monitoring was necessary to address the gap.
The CIPH document added there was still a large number of unimmunized children from among the 16 districts.
As of 2010, the latest data, districts with the lowest expanded program on immunization coverage included Sasa (70.9%), Toril (77.9%), Talomo South (80%) and District D (80.6%).
Talomo North, Baguio, Calinan and Tugbok districts were able to attain the 95-percent national target, the report said.
DOH assistant secretary Eric Tayag recently announced that the National Capital Region had the most number of cases of measles in the Philippines last year, recording 1,051 confirmed cases. This translated to 47 percent of the country’s total 2,232 cases, Tayag said through his official Twitter account.
In Bukidnon, Dr. Ricardo Reyes, Provincial Health Office chief, said they have coordinated with the City Health Office of Malaybalay to immediately investigate the cases to thwart possible measles outbreak.
He said they sent samples of blood serum to the RITM on Wednesday to confirm the cases.
Reyes, however, clarified that the possibility of outbreak is unlikely in the province where immunization coverage for measles is at least 92 percent.
He noted that the province has experienced sporadic cases of measles in the past years.
But he said there is still reason not take the cases sitting down as there could be patches of areas where there is no immunization.
He cited that more cases might be referred as they have tasked both public and private hospitals in the province as district reporting units of diseases commonly subjected to surveillance.
Engr. Florissa Adviento, chief of the PHO’s environmental and occupational health services, told MindaNews four of the cases were reported by the Bukidnon Provincial Medical Center. They are still confirming the origin of one of the four cases, but the rest are from Malaybalay City.
One patient was also admitted at the Malaybalay Polymedic Hospital and another one at the Bethel Baptist Hospital. All of the cases were children, including a nine-month-old baby.
Dr. Dennis Sanggalang, Malaybalay City Health Officer, confirmed five of the six cases are from the city. But he clarified that aside from the cases that still have to be confirmed, it is not alarming because the city government has 97-percent coverage of measles immunization in 2013. (With reports from Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)