How To Protect Yourself From The Measles Epidemic

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Earlier this week, the Department of Health (DOH) declared a measles outbreak in the National Capital Region. Not long after, the agency expanded the outbreak to adjacent regions.

Currently, there are more than 1,500 cases of measles reported throughout the country. The measles outbreak in the country has also claimed some 26 lives over the course of its spread.

The measles outbreak in the Philippines

The breakdown of measles cases per region are as follows:

Region

Total

Deaths

NCR

441

5

Region I

64

2

Region III

192

4

Region IV-A

575

9

Region IV-B

70

0

Region VI

104

3

Region VII

71

1

Region VIII

54

1

Region X

60

0

Region XII

43

0

In some cases like in Region IV-A (CALABARZON), where the highest number of total cases and death was recorded, the number of patients infected with measles jumped by 2,538 percent from last year. Meanwhile, other areas like Region VII saw an increase from two patients in 2018 to 71 recently, with a single death toll from the region.

Apart from the areas expanded under the measles outbreak declaration, other parts of the country being closely monitored by the DOH are Regions II, IX, CAR, and CARAGA.

“We are expanding the outbreak from Metro Manila to the other regions as cases have increased in the past weeks and to strengthen surveillance of new cases and alert mothers and caregivers to be more vigilant,” said Health Secretary Francisco Duque in a statement.

(Read: ‘WILD’ Diseases: DOH Advises The Public To Take Precautions Against Leptospirosis, Dengue, Et Al.)

All over the world

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that despite the increase in the vaccination rate in many countries, the coverage is still inadequate even in European countries.

A report by the BBC revealed that measles cases in Europe tripled from 2017 to last year, with Ukraine suffering from 53,218 cases last year. The said number is almost 11 times higher than the country with the most number of cases, which is Serbia with 5,076 measles patient last year.

In the United States, the state of Washington has already declared an outbreak after 50 people became infected with the disease and with more suspected. Meanwhile, New York counted a total of at least 200 patients who were found to carry the measles virus, which was reported to be the highest number in decades. Parts of Texas also recorded cases of the disease.

In Madagascar, 50,000 people have contracted the virus since October last year. The eastern African country suffered from more than 300 deaths since then, with the casualties due to the disease being mostly children.

In 2017, 110,000 people died from measles—mostly children under the age of five.

Understanding measles

According to the WHO, measles is a highly contagious disease that easily spreads through “coughing and sneezing, close personal contact or direct contact with infected nasal or throat secretions.”

Part of the paramyxovirus family, it attacks the person’s respiratory tract then proceeds to wreak havoc all over the person’s body.

If you’re exposed to the virus, these are the following symptoms you have to watch out for:

  • High fever that lasts for days
  • Runny nose
  • Red and watery eyes
  • Small white spots inside the cheeks
  • Rashes all over the body

None of the symptoms are actually life-threatening. However, complications associated with measles can cause death among infected people.

According to the WHO these complications include “blindness, encephalitis (an infection that causes brain swelling), severe diarrhea and related dehydration, ear infections, or severe respiratory infections such as pneumonia.”

Children who have poor nutrition especially vitamin A are the ones who are prone to these.

Although measles is more common among children, adults are also prone to it. Any person who isn’t inoculated with the anti-measles vaccine can be infected. Pregnant women who are unvaccinated are also at risk of contracting the disease.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for measles at the moment. However, people can reduce the risk of death by getting proper medical treatment as soon as they discover the infection Good nutrition, and sufficient fluid intake to prevent dehydration due to diarrhea and vomiting are also important.

(Read: Influenza Shots And Other Proven Vaccines For Adults In The Philippines)

What to do

With the rising number of measles cases in the country, everyone should be alarmed that people, most especially children, are at risk. Here are some of the things you can do to protect yourself:

  • Get vaccinated. If you have children, have them immunized by getting the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine. For people aged five and up, they can still get booster doses for MMR. In addition, you can also get immunization from other diseases like tuberculosis, poliomyelitis, diphtheria, tetanus, and other disease. For full coverage, make sure that you have at least two shots against measles.
  • Don’t believe in the myth that vaccines are bad for you. Last year, the government reported that vaccination coverage in the Philippines dropped from 80 percent to merely 40. Numerous studies have already proven that vaccines have adverse effects to the body, so don’t buy the whole anti-vaccination hype.
  • When you develop the symptoms, have yourself confined to a hospital. If you’re not confident that your resources are not enough for hospitalization, keep in mind that the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) has indigent coverage for people infected with measles.

Sources: DOH, PNA

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