Number of measles cases climbs to more than 4,300 — DOH

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 11) — The number of people infected with measles has climbed to more than 4,300 with at least 70 confirmed deaths, the health chief said Monday.

"We have 4,302 nationwide and 70 deaths so that's about less than 2 % case fatality ratio about 1,7, 1.8 percent," Health Secretary Francisco Duque told CNN Philippines' Newsroom Ngayon

Duque said the most number of cases have been recorded in Metro Manila, which accounts for 30 percent of the total number so far. He did not specify how many cases there were in Metro Manila. Health Spokesperson Enrique Domingo, however, earlier said there were about 200 people with measles admitted in the San Lazaro Hospital in Manila, the referral center of infectious diseases in the region. 

CALABARZON accounted for 25% of the total count with 1,086 cases, followed by Region III at 11% with 481 cases, Duque added.  He said Region VI (Western Visayas) recorded 211 cases of measles while Region VII (central Visayas) recorded 109 cases. The DOH declared a measles outbreak in these regions last week. 

Health officials have attributed the surge in measles cases and deaths to lack of vaccination. The DOH research showed the lack of vaccination stems from fear of the vaccine's adverse effects similar to the alleged detrimental results of the dengue immunization program or dengvaxia in 2014.

Duque also noted that the regions with the most number of cases were the regions that implemented the dengvaxia vaccine five years ago. 

The Health Secretary said they began a nationwide immunization campaign as early as April 2018, however, there was a low turnout of parents particularly in Metro Manila who availed of the vaccination services. 

"Despite our massive campaign and vaccination through the supplemental immunization activity 'yung NCR [the National Capital Region] had very low turnout and only 36% ang nagpakabakuna [availed of vaccination]," Duque said. 

Duque said he has yet to confirm if there was a shortage of vaccines during the campaign. He added that parent's lack of free time and geographic isolation were other factors that lead to the low coverage of the program. 

According to DOH records, 960,457 children have not been vaccinated for the first three quarters of 2018, a spike from its 2017 figure of 855,039.

On the other hand, the World Health Organization (WHO) said there are currently about 2.5 million children below five years of age in the Philippines who are susceptible to measles due to lack of appropriate vaccination.

Domingo said their health workers are personally urging parents to have their children vaccinated through house-to-house visits. 

"They spend half an hour with the family, going house-to-house and maybe just explain and inform the family how important vaccines are," Domingo said.