Duque: Measles outbreak checked in 3 months
Health Secaretary Francisco Duque III on Wednesday said it may take another three months for the measles outbreak to be put under control with the help of various government agencies.
In his second visit to San Lazaro Hospital in Manila since a measles outbreak was declared in the National Capital Region (NCR) and four other regions, Duque said the Department of Health (DOH) may be able to stop the spread of the disease in the last week of April or in the first few weeks of May.
“Clearly, the parameter here is if we see the number of cases in our hospitals drop. But now we are still seeing an [upward] trend. [We] cannot say that the trend is starting to reverse because it hasn’t,” Duque said.
Sen. Richard Gordon on Monday cautioned against declaring a state of calamity over the outbreak, saying it would give local officials and politicians access to emergency funds that they might use in the May elections.
Gordon made the remarks at a meeting of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council’s Response Cluster, where he insisted that the country was in no danger of a measles pandemic or epidemic.
No state of calamity
“We don’t have the numbers to justify that [declaration of a state of calamity]. So let’s not go slipshod into something that we are not ready for, that doesn’t call for it,” he said.
Gordon, chair of the Philippine National Red Cross board of governors, said local officials running in elections might exploit the situation and use calamity funds for their own benefit.
“This is the election period, and that would be an excuse to spend money,” he said.
As of Monday, the DOH’s Epidemiology Bureau recorded a total of 5,615 confirmed measles cases nationwide, or 190 percent higher than the number in the previous year.
Of the cases, 65 percent, or more than 3,600 patients, did not have any vaccination against measles.
Measles deaths rise
Deaths also rose to 87 from 18 during the same period last year.
Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) posted the highest number of deaths at 31, followed by NCR (21), Eastern Visayas (11) and Central Luzon (7). Nearly half of those who died from the vaccine-preventable disease were between 1 and 4 years old.
To control the spread of the disease, Duque said the DOH would form, together with the Department of Education, a joint task force that would institute and coordinate vaccination monitoring mechanisms in schools.
He said the social welfare and transportation departments, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine Information Agency already committed to help the DOH in controlling the measles outbreak.
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