DOH-12 moves to curb measles incidence

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/11 July) — The Department of Health (DOH) in Region 12 is targeting to increase the region’s immunization rate for measles by about 15 percent before yearend as it moves to address the rising cases of the disease in the area in the last six months.

Dr. Teogenes Baluma, DOH Region 12 director, said Friday they have started their preparations for this year’s round of massive measles immunization that will be launched nationwide in September.

He said the initiative will mainly cover infants and children who were not yet immunized against measles virus.

The agency earlier reported that the region’s child immunization rate for measles only averaged about 80 percent in the last five years, rendering the area vulnerable to possible outbreaks.

Also known as Soccsksargen, Region 12 comprises the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, North Cotabato and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong, Kidapawan and Cotabato.

“We need catch up with our immunization coverage since we’re mandated to maintain a fully immunized child rate of about 95 percent to free us from measles outbreaks,” Baluma said in a radio interview.

In the September measles immunization drive, the official said local health workers will conduct house-to-house visits anew and immunize children aged five years-old and below.

He said the campaign, which is launched every five years, is part of the DOH’s continuing “Ligtas Tigdas” program.

“The last time that we did this was in 2009 so we really need to do some catching up,” he said.

Measles is a highly contagious, serious disease caused by a virus that infects the respiratory, immune system and skin with an initial symptom of skin rash.

DOH-12 earlier alerted residents against the rising cases of measles in parts of the region and the possible occurrence of disease outbreaks.

In the last six months, the agency has recorded measles outbreaks in this city, Polomolok town in South Cotabato and in Alabel in Sarangani Province.

In Alabel, the municipal health office already documented two deaths due to measles complications and nearly 200 clinically-confirmed cases in nine of its 13 barangays.

The DOH Region 12’s regional epidemiology and surveillance unit reported that a total of 121 suspected measles cases were recorded in the entire region last year.

But only four of the cases were confirmed through laboratory testing conducted by the DOH’s Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Alabang, Muntinlupa City. (MindaNews)