A deadly outbreak of the highly contagious measles virus killed at least 25 people last month in several areas in the Philippines, officials said on February 7th, AFP has reported
Most of the dead are children and the toll is expected to rise as more cases are confirmed. According to figures from the Philippines' national health authorities cases jumped from 791 in 2017 to 5,120 last year. There were 1,813 confirmed cases in January alone.
The authorities said vaccination rates in the Philippines have been declining for years, and pointed to the recent controversy over the safety of a dengue vaccine, Dengvaxia. Parents have been reluctant to have their children immunised at government health centres after complications related to the vaccine.
"The measles vaccination coverage has been in decline in the last five years," health undersecretary Eric Domingo told a press conference on February 7th.
"In recent years, it was the issue of the Dengvaxia vaccine that contributed," he added, as the government urged parents to get their children vaccinated.
Measles is a highly contagious airborne disease which spreads through coughs and sneezes. Symptoms include a fever, cough, runny nose and inflamed eyes. A red rash appears on the face and body a few days later.