Measles outbreak in Philippines puts 3.7 million children at risk

Measles outbreak in Philippines puts 3.7 million children at risk

The Philippines are currently facing an outbreak of measles which has already taken the lives of 286 people, most of them babies and children.

This year has already seen a 42 per cent increase from the 202 deaths caused by measles in 2018. Out of the 286 deaths so far, 110 have been under nine months old. It is estimated that around 3.7 million children unvaccinated children are at risk from the highly contagious disease.

Spread via coughing and sneezing, the virus can survive in the airspace for up to two hours. Measles can go undetected for up to twelve days, with the infected becoming most contagious four days before a rash develops. Because of how easily the virus spreads, it is estimated that each sick person could potentially infect up to eighteen others.

Since 10th February, the Philippine Red Cross, supported by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), has been working alongside the Department of Health in assisting patients and their families. To prevent further infections, The Red Cross has supplied tents and cots to reduce overcrowding, and has set up welfare desks, portable water and sanitation facilities, and hygiene equipment inside hospitals.

Red Cross staff and volunteers are already playing a key role informing, educating and warning communities about the early signs and symptoms of measles, and what action to take.

Head of the IFRC Philippines Country Office Chris Staines said:

"With experts warning that the outbreak could last for months, potentially not stabilising until May, many more lives are at risk. This is a preventable tragedy. We have no time to lose and no time to be complacent. We need to support Philippines Red Cross staff and volunteers today in their life-saving actions."

Following the outbreak, the Red Cross are calling out to volunteer doctors and nurses for support during a mass vaccination campaign. Approximately 13,500 children have already been vaccinated, however, the Red Cross and the Department of Health aim to vaccinate all children aged between six months and five years. To make this possible, the IFRC are appealing to their donors and partners to contribute 1.9 million US$.

Philippine Red Cross Chairman Richard Gordon said:

"We are in the grip of a measles outbreak that, tragically, is hitting the very young hardest. The Red Cross has been crucial in restoring people's confidence in vaccines, which makes it easier now to convince parents to get their children vaccinated. But we are aiming for a 100 per cent immunisation rate."

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Photo credit: UK Department for International Development

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