June 17, 2024

The Department of Health is encoura-ging the public to take part in its immunization campaign against vaccine-preventable diseases as cases of measles and pertussis are on the rise.

In a statement, the DOH said it has established a national Public Health Emergency Operations Center, with support and assistance from the World Health Organization, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, and the United States Center for Disease Control.

Health Sec. Teodoro Herbosa supervises the on-the-ground response activities to contain the measles cases.

“Code Blue has been practiced in the DOH Central Office since March 20, which signals intensified activities to mitigate the spread of the virus through vaccination, micronutrient supplementation, community engagement, and risk communication,” Herbosa said in his report to Task Force El Niño.

“A non-selective Outbreak Response Immunization strategy for measles-rubella is being implemented in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, together with Vitamin A supplementation and a synchronized supplemental immunization activity on bivalent Oral Polio Vaccine,” he said.

The DOH targets to vaccinate at least 90 percent of the high-risk population, especially children from six months to 10 years of age in a bid to control measles.

The agency reminded the public to get free pentavalent Diphtheria; Pertussis and Tetanus; Hepatitis B; Haemophilus influenza type B; and Measles, Mumps, and Rubella vaccines at local health centers.

As of Feb. 24, the DOH recorded 569 measles and rubella cases. All regions, except for Bicol and Central Visayas, reported increasing cases in the recent month.

“Around 163 new cases were reported between Feb. 11 to 24, which is three percent higher compared to two weeks prior (159 cases). Epidemiologic profile shows that those under five years of age and who are unvaccinated are the most affected,” the DOH said.

Measles is highly contagious and it spreads from infected individuals through the air, especially through coughing or sneezing. It affects all age groups, but is more common in children and its symptoms include high fever, cough, runny nose, and a body rash.

“There is no specific treatment for the virus that causes measles. However, vaccination protects against it,” the DOH said.

The DOH has logged 453 cases of pertussis for the first 10 weeks of 2024. In 2023, there were only 23 pertussis cases reported during the same time period.

Fifty-two cases were reported in 2019, 27 in 2020, seven in 2021, and two in 2022.

Pertussis or whooping cough is called ubong-dalahit or tuspirina in Filipino. It is a highly contagious bacterial respiratory infection that causes influenza-like symptoms of mild fever, colds, and coughs seven to 10 days after exposure.

“This cough, in typical cases, will develop into a characteristic hacking cough. Pertussis can be treated by antibiotics, but it is best prevented through vaccination,” the DOH said.  – PNA