Manila -The Philippines’ Department of Health said on Thursday that at least 36 children under 5 years old died from measles in the Philippines in 2020.
The health department, which disclosed this in a statement, said: “In 2020, pockets of measles outbreaks are being reported in the Philippines.
“As of August, there are around 3,500 reported measles cases with 36 deaths. Most of the cases are among children under 5 years old.”
In the Philippines, according to the department, an estimated 2.4 million children under the age of 5 are susceptible to measles.
It added that measles was one of the most contagious diseases in the world, and that up to nine out of 10 people exposed to the measles virus would contract the disease if not vaccinated.
The department will conduct the nationwide measles and polio supplemental immunisation campaign starting Oct. 26 this year.
The World Health Organisation and the UN Children’s Fund are supporting the campaign, the department added.
The government is targeting children under 5 years old, around 9.4 million children for the measles-rubella vaccine and 6.9 million children for the oral polio vaccine.
“In spite of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), a high-quality immunisation campaign is urgently needed to stop measles transmission and possible outbreaks,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque said.
Measles is a dangerous and fatal disease, with complications that can include severe diarrhoea and dehydration, pneumonia, ear and eye complications, encephalitis or swelling of the brain, or permanent disability.
There is no specific treatment for measles.
The only reliable protection from measles is vaccination, the department said in the statement.
“While measles is highly contagious, it is also a preventable disease.
“We must not lose the decades of progress we have achieved in immunising and protecting Filipino children, even amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” WHO Representative in the Philippines Rabindra Abeyasinghe said in the same statement.
He reiterated that the measles vaccine is safe and has been in use for 50 years.