Measles Outbreak Erupts in Philippine Capital

(Bloomberg) -- The number of measles cases in the Philippine capital region has surged 10 times at the start of the year after jumping more than 900 percent in 2018.

“We are declaring an outbreak as cases have increased in the past weeks and to strengthen surveillance of new cases and alert mothers and caregivers to be more vigilant,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque said in a statement.

Fatalities from measles, a highly contagious respiratory viral disease, rose fivefold to 200 last year from 40 in 2017, Health Undersecretary Rolando Enrique Domingo told ABS-CBN News Channel. From December to January, there had been about 50 deaths, he said, blaming vaccination fears. The government hit only 40 percent of its immunization target in 2018, Domingo said.

President Rodrigo Duterte appealed last week to have children inoculated, urging citizens to overcome their fears arising from complications and deaths allegedly related to dengue vaccine Dengvaxia that was administered by the previous regime. Since then, people have been wary of the government’s free immunization drive.

Measles cases in Metro Manila in the first three weeks of January rose to 196 from only 20 cases a year ago, according to the health department. For the whole of 2018, the capital region registered 3,646 measles cases compared with 351 cases in 2017. Nationwide, the number jumped more than six times to 5,120 in 2018 from 791 the prior year.

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