Local health units on alert vs. suspect measles cases
posted 24-Feb-2019  ·  
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Local health authorities have started monitoring the possible entry of measles cases in the ports of Virac and San Andres as well as the lone airport, as the number of those affected nationwide continues to rise.

Last Sunday, in coordination with the officials at the airport and the two ports, health workers armed with digital thermometers were fielded to take temperature readings of arriving passengers.

Those found to have a temperature greater than 38 degree Centigrade will be interviewed by the health worker, with his or her condition to be monitored by the local health office in the place of destination.

While there has been no recorded case of measles in Catanduanes according to the Department of Health (DOH), informed sources say the local health offices are keeping a close watch on people who have a fever and considering them as suspect cases unless ruled out.

It is claimed that the measles vaccination campaign in Catanduanes has not been successful, with less than 100% vaccination rate. Teams from the 11 municipalities are now going on a house-to-house campaign to locate those who did not undergo vaccination.

Last week, Acting Governor Shirley Abundo responded to the national government’s directive for local government units to heighten the measles vaccination campaign and the monitoring of measles cases.

Officials and representatives of the DOH, Provincial Health Office (PHO), Department of Education (DepEd), Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), Philippine National Police (PNP), local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Offices, and government media were called to discuss their respective interventions to prevent a measles outbreak in the island and at the same time stress to parents the importance of having their children vaccinated against the deadly disease.

Acting Gov. Abundo also asked the 589-strong Catanduanes delegation to the 2019 Palarong Bicol to take extra precaution in the host province of Masbate where measles cases have been observed to be increasing. The delegation is slated to leave for Bicol’s only other island province today, Feb. 20, with the athletic meet to start on Monday with a parade.

Last week, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III reported that measles cases in the country has reached nearly 7,000 from January 1 to February 13, 2019.

He disclosed that the DOH teams are conducting mapping activities to determine which communities have the most number of measles cases and encouraging parents to have their children vaccinated. The vaccination campaign targets 7 million grade schoolers from kindergarten to Grade 6 who have not yet been vaccinated or have received the measles vaccine but have not had the second dose, as well as preschoolers and those outside of the ages mentioned who have yet to receive the vaccine.

Sidebar

WHAT IS MEASLES?

According to the World Health Organization, measles is a highly contagious, serious disease caused by a virus. Before the introduction of measles vaccine in 1963 and widespread vaccination, major epidemics occurred approximately every 2–3 years and measles caused an estimated 2.6 million deaths each year.

Approximately 110 000 people died from measles in 2017 – mostly children under the age of 5 years, despite the availability of a safe and effective vaccine.

Measles is caused by a virus in the paramyxovirus family and it is normally passed through direct contact and through the air. The virus infects the respiratory tract, then spreads throughout the body. Measles is a human disease and is not known to occur in animals.

The first sign of measles is usually a high fever, which begins about 10 to 12 days after exposure to the virus, and lasts 4 to 7 days. A runny nose, a cough, red and watery eyes, and small white spots inside the cheeks can develop in the initial stage. After several days, a rash erupts, usually on the face and upper neck. Over about 3 days, the rash spreads, eventually reaching the hands and feet. The rash lasts for 5 to 6 days, and then fades. On average, the rash occurs 14 days after exposure to the virus (within a range of 7 to 18 days).

Most measles-related deaths are caused by complications associated with the disease. Serious complications are more common in children under the age of 5, or adults over the age of 30. The most serious complications include blindness, encephalitis (an infection that causes brain swelling), severe diarrhoea and related dehydration, ear infections, or severe respiratory infections such as pneumonia. Severe measles is more likely among poorly nourished young children, especially those with insufficient vitamin A, or whose immune systems have been weakened by HIV/AIDS or other diseases.

WHO IS AT RISK?

Unvaccinated young children are at highest risk of measles and its complications, including death. Unvaccinated pregnant women are also at risk. Any non-immune person (who has not been vaccinated or was vaccinated but did not develop immunity) can become infected.

Measles is one of the world’s most contagious diseases. It is spread by coughing and sneezing, close personal contact or direct contact with infected nasal or throat secretions.

The virus remains active and contagious in the air or on infected surfaces for up to 2 hours. It can be transmitted by an infected person from 4 days prior to the onset of the rash to 4 days after the rash erupts.

Measles outbreaks can result in epidemics that cause many deaths, especially among young, malnourished children. In countries where measles has been largely eliminated, cases imported from other countries remain an important source of infection.

TREATMENT

No specific antiviral treatment exists for measles virus but severe complications from measles can be avoided through supportive care that ensures good nutrition, adequate fluid intake and treatment of dehydration with WHO-recommended oral rehydration solution. This solution replaces fluids and other essential elements that are lost through diarrhea or vomiting. Antibiotics should be prescribed to treat eye and ear infections, and pneumonia.

All children diagnosed with measles should receive two doses of vitamin A supplements, given 24 hours apart. This treatment restores low vitamin A levels during measles that occur even in well-nourished children and can help prevent eye damage and blindness. Vitamin A supplements have been shown to reduce the number of deaths from measles by 50%.


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