In the Philippines, an estimated 2.4 million children under the age of five are susceptible for measles.
Measles or tigdas is one of the most contagious diseases in the world.
On Tuesday, March 21, the Department of Health (DOH) reported that there is a 541 percent increase in measles and rubella cases in the first two months of 2023.
DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said that the DOH will conduct a supplemental immunization activity, in order for them to address the spike in cases. The activity will start on May.
“Let’s go back to the homes of the missed children so that we can vaccinate them. We will vaccinate those who are not only scheduled for vaccination but also those who missed their dose last year or the previous year. We have to do this so that they are protected against measles,” Vergeire said.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), measles is caused by a virus in the paramyxovirus family and it is normally passed through direct contact and through the air.
It is spread by coughing and sneezing, close personal contact or direct contact with infected nasal or throat secretions.
The virus infects the respiratory tract, then spreads throughout the body. Measles is a human disease and is not known to occur in animals.
The virus remains active and contagious in the air or on infected surfaces for up to two hours. It can be transmitted by an infected person from four days prior to the onset of the rash to four days after the rash erupts.
The first sign of measles, the WHO said, is usually high fever, which begins about 10 to 12 days after exposure to the virus, and lasts four to seven days.
A runny nose, a cough, red and watery eyes, and small white spots inside the cheeks can develop in the initial stage.
After several days, a rash erupts, usually on the face and upper neck.
Over about three days, the rash spreads, eventually reaching the hands and feet. The rash lasts for five to six days, and then fades. On average, the rash occurs 14 days after exposure to the virus (within a range of 7 to 18 days).
Most measles-related deaths are caused by complications associated with the disease.
Serious complications are more common in children under the age of five, or adults over the age of 30.
The most serious complications include blindness, encephalitis (an infection that causes brain swelling), severe diarrhea and related dehydration, ear infections, or severe respiratory infections such as pneumonia.
Severe measles is more likely among poorly nourished young children, especially those with insufficient vitamin A, or whose immune systems have been weakened by HIV/AIDS or other diseases.
Unvaccinated children, pregnant women at risk
Unvaccinated young children are at highest risk of measles and its complications, including death.
Also, unvaccinated pregnant women are also at risk. Any non-immune person, who has not been vaccinated or was vaccinated but did not develop immunity, can become infected.
Measles outbreaks can result in epidemics that cause many deaths, especially among young, malnourished children. In countries where measles has been largely eliminated, cases imported from other countries remain an important source of infection.
There is no specific antiviral treatment exists for measles virus.
Severe complications from measles can be reduced through supportive care that ensures good nutrition, adequate fluid intake and treatment of dehydration with WHO-recommended oral rehydration solution.
This solution replaces fluids and other essential elements that are lost through diarrhea or vomiting.
Routine measles vaccination for children, combined with mass immunization campaigns are key public health strategies to reduce global measles deaths.
The measles vaccine is often incorporated with rubella and/or mumps vaccines.
“It is equally safe and effective in the single or combined form. Adding rubella to measles vaccine increases the cost only slightly, and allows for shared delivery and administration costs,” WHO stated.