DOH fears measles outbreak may hurt PH tourism, migrant workers
The Department of Health (DOH) on Tuesday expressed concern that tourism and the deployment of Filipino migrant workers may be adversely affected by the rising cases of measles in the country.
According to Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo, foreign advisories prohibiting travel to the Philippines put the tourism and labor sectors at risk, especially if the country fails to contain the measles outbreak, which as of Monday has reached more than 9,200 cases and killed 146, mostly children.
“If the outbreak isn’t controlled, you can’t stop other countries from giving travel advisories to their citizens not to go to the Philippines. Other possible consequences are Filipinos, including overseas workers, may be restricted to travel to other countries or will be asked to provide additional requirements such as vaccination records,” Domingo said.
Hong Kong inquiry
Already, he said, Hong Kong health officials have inquired about the status of the outbreak here.
Hong Kong was declared measles-free in 2016. The former British colony is a favorite destination for Filipino travelers and more than 200,000 Filipinos work there.
As a precautionary measure, Domingo said, the DOH Epidemiology Bureau and the Bureau of Quarantine have set up health desks at airports so that travelers can “voluntarily” submit themselves for checkup if they feel ill.
Measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by a virus that can spread through sneezing, coughing and close personal contact.
Complications include diarrhea, ear infections, pneumonia and encephalitis, or the swelling of the brain, which may lead to death, according to the DOH.
While the measles outbreak is so far limited to children, Domingo said, this does not mean adults aren’t at risk of contracting the disease.
Under control by May
Earlier, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the DOH was aiming to bring the measles outbreak under control by early May.
He said a government information campaign was helping restore public trust in the DOH immunization program, which was marred in 2017 by controversy over the Dengvaxia dengue vaccine made by French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur, which some officials linked to the deaths of at least three children.
The DOH has intensified its immunization program, targeting infants as young as 6 months old as well as preschoolers, who have not been inoculated due to their parents’ lack of time or fear of vaccination caused by the Dengvaxia fiasco.
In the Bicol region, the Catholic Church has joined the DOH in calling on parents to bring their children in for inoculation.
In a pastoral letter read in church during Mass, Archbishop Rolando Tria Tirona of Caceres said the only way to deal with the measles outbreak was to have children vaccinated.
“Let not the unfounded fear of the vaccine affect the lives of our children,” Tirona said.
At least 54 cases of measles have been recorded in Bicol from Jan. 1 to Feb. 2. —With reports from Tina G. Santos and AP
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.