Measles cases breach 8,000 mark but may dwindle in April – DOH

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From January 1 to February 18, 8,443 cases of the contagious disease have been recorded according to Health Secretary Francisco Duque. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 19) — Measles cases in the country have breached the 8,000 mark but may dwindle beginning April.

From January 1 to February 18, 8,443 cases of the contagious disease have been recorded according to Health Secretary Francisco Duque. Of these cases, 135 have died.

Duque said they are looking at declaring an outbreak in the Cagayan Valley region, where cases have risen by 578 percent.

Earlier this month, the department declared a measles outbreak in Metro Manila, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Western Visayas, and Central Visayas.

However, Duque said over 133,000 children aged five and below were vaccinated within the last two weeks.

"This is a good reflection... for the longest time," he said.

According to Department of Health (DOH) records, 960,457 children have not been vaccinated for the first three quarters of 2018, a spike from 855,039 in 2017.

Their research showed the low vaccination rate comes from fear of the vaccine's adverse effects, amid controversy surrounding the dengue vaccine Dengvaxia.

Not just children

Achyut Shrestha, a medical officer at the Philippine chapter of the World Health Organization, said there is also significant adolescent and adult population susceptible to measles.

"Upon analyzing 2018 measles cases, 10 percent of the cases are in the age bracket of 5 years to 15 years and further 20 percent are from 15 years up to 40 plus years. Whenever the unvaccinated under 5 years population reach a certain threshold due to continued vulnerability of higher age groups, Philippines experiences large measles outbreaks. " Shrestha told CNN Philippines.

Shrestha added there are also gaps related to the capacity of hospitals to isolate the measles cases due to lack of limited infrastructure and manpower.

"Without proper triage and isolation of cases there is massive chance of intra hospital spread of measles," Shrestha said.

CNN Philippines' Correspondent Rex Remitio and Senior Digital Producer Chad de Guzman contributed to this report.