Death toll doubles in measles outbreak

By | February 18, 2019

The Philippine health secretary says 136 people, mostly children, have died of measles and 8400 others have been sickened in an outbreak blamed partly on recent vaccination fears.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said Monday a massive immunisation drive that started last week in hard-hit Manila and four provincial regions may contain the outbreak by April.

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President Rodrigo Duterte warned in a TV message Friday of fatal complications and urged children to be immunised. The outbreak began in January.

A woman from New South Wales returned from the Philippines with the virus. Authorities have urged people travelling to Southeast Asia to make sure they are fully vaccinated before heading overseas.

Measles is a highly contagious respiratory infection and is spread through coughing or sneezing.

Symptoms don’t appear until 10 to 14 days after exposure and include fever, pain, cough, runny nose, inflamed eyes, sore throat, red blotchy skin rash, headache, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes.

Duque said a government information drive is helping restore public trust in the government’s immunisation program, which was marred in 2017 by an anti-dengue vaccine made by French drugmaker Sanofi which was blamed for the deaths of at least three children.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s capital has seen its first death from measles in a major outbreak, the health ministry said on Monday.

A 57-year-old woman died in hospital of complications from the highly infectious illness, health ministry spokeswoman Maryna Dadinova told AFP.

Eight people, including two children, have died of measles in Ukraine this year. There were 16 deaths nationwide in 2018.

Around 20,000 people in Ukraine have contracted the highly contagious viral disease since the start of the year.

Just 42 per cent of one-year-olds in the country had been vaccinated by the end of 2016, according to the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF.

Ukrainian authorities and international organisations blame the outbreak on a lengthy hiatus in immunisations.

In May 2018, an official with the National Medical Academy, Fedir Lapiy, said that parents’ “reluctance to vaccinate their children comes from distrust of vaccines, distrust of doctors.” Measles cases more than tripled across Europe in 2018, and Ukraine drove most of the surge.

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