Measles in C. Luzon: 35 dead, 1,395 sick
CITY OF SAN FERNANDO — The death toll from the measles outbreak in Central Luzon in the last two weeks rose from 13 to 35, according to the Department of Health (DOH).
Dr. Jessie Fantone, chief epidemiologist of the DOH in the region, said the fatalities included 12 children in Pampanga province, seven in Bulacan province, six in Tarlac province, four each in Bataan and Zambales provinces, and two in Nueva Ecija province.
Measles cases also doubled from 668 to 1,395, with 477 in Bulacan, 349 in Pampanga, 293 in Tarlac, 113 in Zambales, 78 in Bataan, 62 in Nueva Ecija and 23 in Aurora province. Most cases involved children.
In Pampanga, barangay health workers are locating 16,978 children in 19 towns and two cities who have not been taken by their parents to health centers for two vaccinations, according to Dr. Marcelo Jaochico, provincial health officer.
For these children, the DOH needed to provide 3,397 vials of measles vaccine. The vaccination coverage among 43,041 children was 72 percent, Jaochico said.
The population eligible for vaccination was 60,019 in Pampanga.
“Please cast away your fears for vaccinations. Dengvaxia (vaccine against dengue) is different. Tell your neighbors and relatives,” Gov. Lilia Pineda told the parents.
Many parents hesitated to take their children to health centers or refused to have them given measles shots after reports of deaths, allegedly due to Dengvaxia, came out two years ago.
In Bulacan, health officials started releasing close to 5,000 vials of measles vaccine as the death toll in the province rose to seven.
They said 42,000 infants and children in the province had remained either unvaccinated or not been fully immunized.
Joy Gomez, head of the Bulacan public health office, said they had distributed 4,800 vials of the vaccine to the province’s 21 towns.
In Pangasinan province, the number of suspected measles cases doubled from 122 to 245 as of Feb. 18.
Data from the provincial health office showed 138 of those affected were children, including two babies who had died.
Dr. Ana Ma. Teresa de Guzman, provincial health officer, said the families of the affected children may not have availed of the free vaccine in the last two years because of the Dengvaxia scare.
Health officials were also monitoring the towns of Lingayen, Bugallon, Calasiao, Malasiqui and Sta. Barbara and San Carlos City for the upsurge of suspected measles cases.
In South Cotabato province, Dr. Rogelio Aturdido, provincial health officer, said the DOH was closely watching Soccsksargen, owing to the measles outbreak in a remote village in Malapatan town, Sarangani province, last year that killed at least 18 children.
The Provincial Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit in South Cotabato recorded 28 suspected cases of measles since the start of the year. However, there were no reported deaths even if 75 percent of patients had not availed of measles immunization, it said. —Reports from Tonette Orejas, Carmela Reyes-Estrope, Gabriedl Cardinoza and Bong Sarmiento
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