GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 28 Nov) – The Department of Health (DOH) has delivered additional vaccines and medicines to an upland village in Malapatan town, Sarangani Province to help contain a continuing suspected measles outbreak that already killed 18 children.
A combined team from the DOH and the health offices of Sarangani and Malapatan embarked on a three-day mission on Wednesday morning to Barangay Upper Suyan to conduct another round of massive measles vaccination and treatment of affected residents.
Federico Yadao, investigation and response coordinator of the Sarangani Provincial Health Office’s epidemiology and surveillance unit, said the mission was aimed to effectively control the outbreak and prevent further deaths.
He said the team is targeting to cover at least 10 remote sitios in Barangay Upper Suyan that were affected by the outbreak.
A report from the Sarangani Information Office said 22 measles cases have been recorded in Sitios Lower Kyugam, 14 in Alna, 15 in Mahayag, 7 in Upper Kyugam, 5 in Lino, 4 each in Alnaob and Datalnay, and 1 each in Dlandang, Akbual and Klarak.
The common signs and symptoms were “fever, rashes, cough, conjunctivitis, koplik spots.” Some cases exhibited arthralgia or joint inflammation, fast breathing and watery stools.
“Almost all sitios of Upper Suyan were so far affected and there were clustering of cases monitored in some areas,” Yadao told MindaNews in a phone interview.
As of Wednesday morning, he said they already validated a total of 82 suspected measles cases and 18 deaths in the area, mostly involving infants and children aged below five years old.
The recorded fatalities increased from 17 last Monday after another child victim succumbed to severe symptoms of the disease on Tuesday, Yadao said.
He said the latest fatality, who was admitted at the Dr. Jorge P. Royeca Hospital here, was diagnosed as “measles with bilateral pneumonia secondary to aspiration.”
He said eight new patients were also brought for treatment on Tuesday to the R.O. Diagan Hospital here.
Yadao said 12 patients from the affected Sitios were initially rushed late last week to the same facility but some of them have already recovered and eventually discharged.
He said they have sent 23 blood samples to the DOH’s Research Institute for Tropical Medicine for confirmatory tests and the results are expected to come in within the week.
Since the outbreak was first reported last Nov. 4, Yadao said the Sarangani and Malapatan health offices already vaccinated some 546 children for measles and rubella.
He said they provided residents with Vitamin A supplements, oresols, paracetamol and anti-histamine medicines as well as treated mosquito nets.
As part of the mission, Yadao said the DOH team will conduct an investigation as to how the outbreak started to set proper interventions.
Citing their records, he said the area reported a 99-percent accomplishment for measles vaccination but it dropped to 79 percent this year.
“Our vaccination teams had difficulty reaching some of these communities due to their remoteness and the undeveloped roads,” he said.
Yadao said the affected sitios are located near the boundaries of Sarangani and Davao Occidental province.
Upper Suyan is roughly three hours’ ride from the town center but reaching the nearest sitio, Alna, would take a seven-hour trek. It takes another five hours of trekking to reach the farthest Sitio Upper Kyugam. (MindaNews)