PH is 5th country with highest number of reported measles cases since 2018 – WHO

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The WHO says there were 19,358 reported measles cases in the country for the past 12 months. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 18) — A World Health Organization (WHO) study revealed that the Philippines ranks 5th among countries with the highest number of reported measles cases for the past 12 months, with 19,358 people reportedly infected with the disease during that period.

The study that covered 170 countries showed a 300 percent increase in the number of reported measles cases worldwide for the first quarter of 2019, compared to the same period the previous year. The WHO said over 112,000 suspected and confirmed cases were reported in 2019, a huge jump from the 28,000 cases in 2018.

Ukraine topped the list released this week with 72,408 cases followed by Madagascar with 69,720 cases. India ranked third place with 60,641 measles cases while Pakistan trailed behind with 28,164 cases.

The WHO said " while this data is provisional and not yet complete, it indicates a clear trend. Many countries are in the midst of sizeable measles outbreaks, with all regions of the world experiencing sustained rises in cases."

The Department of Health (DOH) has pointed to insufficient vaccination coverage as the main reason behind the Philippines' alarming number of measles cases.

However, Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo recently said they were able to reach their coverage target for infants for the first quarter of the year. He said they were able to provide 3.8 million vaccines to infants as young as six months old to six years old.

“For us to be able to say that it is completely under control, it means there will be no new cases for 6 weeks. So we’re just monitoring right now,” Domingo said on April 5.

Health officials said they have intensified their immunization campaign to prepare for the next school year which starts in June.

The WHO says measles is one of the world’s most contagious diseases, with the potential to be extremely severe. It adds the disease is preventable through safe and effective vaccine.