By URIEL C. QUILINGUING
Contributing Editor .
TEN persons succumbed to measles complications as outbreak of the highly contagious disease reached 1,055 cases in the past 10 weeks in Northern Mindanao, an official of the Department of Health in Region 10 said on Friday.
Dr. David Mendoza, who heads DOH 10’s Regional Epidemiology, Surveillance and Disaster Response Unit, said Cagayan de Oro has the most number of fatalities with six while Bukidnon and Misamis Oriental has three and one, respectively.
DOH 10’s measles surveillance report show Bukidnon has the most cases with 443, Cagayan de Oro, 204; Misamis Oriental, 199; Lanao del Norte,102; Iligan, 30; and Camiguin, 3.
Mendoza, however, said he expects cases of measles to taper down after health personnel has, so far, administered the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine to more than 94,000 of the 100,157 target all over the region.
While there is a perceivable downtrend on measles infections, the Code White Alert which the DOH 10 declared on Feb. 19 at the height of the outbreak is still in effect.
DOH 10’s regional immunization program coordinator Karen Yee Garces said the 100,157 MMR vaccine immunization target is composed of children who are as young six months until 59 months old, obviously including those in the elementary school levels.
Garces said the immunization campaign is both community-based and school-based and for this they are administering the MMR vaccine in coordination with the Department of Education, Department of Social Welfare and Development, and the Department of Interior and Local Government at the regional and local levels.
She admitted though that the DOH 10 failed to reach its usual immunization goal last year since their accomplishment was only 70 percent, mainly due to the dengvaxia dengue vaccine scare. DOH 10 used to be among the top performing regions at 96 percent.
“But our 70 percent is still way up compared to as low as 30 percent in other regions, particularly in regions where the administration of dengvaxia vaccine was piloted,” said added.
City Health Office’s Dr. Joey Retuya, for his part, said that, despite the dengvaxia controversy last year and relatively high 20,000 target, Cagayan de Oro still managed to post a 92 percent immunization performance.
“Although we reached 92 percent, there is the eight percent,” Retuya said. “It could be that the others have not completed the two doses, the first for six to nine months and the second dose for 12 months and above, were among the measles patients who died.
Profile of the 1,055 measles patients, during the surveillance period in the region, show more than half or 592 of them, have never been immunized.
Dr. Mendoza said those who were immunized, or only had one dose of the MMR vaccine, may have failed to produce the anti-bodies against measles. “Sometimes, it’s good to have experienced measles because by then, you become immune to the virus.”
Measles is caused by infection with the rubeola virus that thrives in the mucus of the nose and throat of an infected person. To protect a person from measles infection, a measles, mumps and rubella vaccine must be administered to developed one’s immune system.
Other than the MMR vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella, the DOH also administers other vaccines to children specifically against hepatitis A, hepatitis B, diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis, type B influenza, and inactivated polio virus.