MANILA -- The number of measles cases in Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon) continues to decrease amid reports of increased deaths from the disease in the first half of the year, an official of the Department of Health (DOH) said Tuesday.

In an interview with the Philippine News Agency (PNA), DOH Calabarzon Regional Director Eduardo Janairo confirmed that while the region is among those with the highest increase in measles cases at the start of the year, the figures are on a downtrend since July.

“From January 1 to August 23, 2019, there were 8,788 cases with 167 deaths. This is equivalent to 74 percent increase compared to the same period last year where we only have 1,054 cases with 16 deaths. But when we launched our school-based vaccination campaign, we have been receiving weekly reports of zero measles cases already, and in fact, from August 20 to 23, we received a zero-case report of the disease from the field,” Janairo said.

In its Measles-Rubella Update as of August, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that the Philippines ranks third among 10 countries with the highest cases of measles from July 2018 to June 2019.

The WHO said that Philippines reported 45,847 cases of the highly contagious disease during this period.

According to the DOH Epidemiology Bureau, Calabarzon had the highest measles incidence as of July 13 with 7,213 cases compared to 632 cases in the same period last year.

The region also recorded the biggest number of fatalities -- 123, or an increase of close to 2,000 percent from just six in 2018.

Other regions that reported a high incidence of measles include Metro Manila with 6,969 cases and 114 deaths, Central Luzon with 6,350 cases and 115 deaths, Western Visayas with 2,379 cases and eight deaths, and Northern Mindanao with 2,118 cases and 16 deaths.

In the report, the United Nations agency noted that the measles outbreak in the Philippines, and other countries, was due to low coverage of measles vaccination which leaves a large number of the population vulnerable to the disease.

Gaya ng nasabi dati, ang malaking factor sa pagtaas ng measles cases ay Dengvaxia scare, nawalan ng tiwala sa immunization program ng gobyerno ang mga tao. Pangalawa ay ang kakulangan ng oras ng mga nanay na nagtatrabaho kapag weekdays na dalhin ang kanilang mga anak sa health centers (Like what’s been said before, the Dengvaxia scare is the biggest factor in the increase of measles cases, the people lost trust in the government’s immunization program. Second is the lack of time of working mothers to bring their children to the health centers),” Janairo explained.

To address this, Janairo said the DOH 4-A strengthened their campaign against measles through continuous school-based and house-to-house immunization drives.

Nag-hire din ng karagdagang nurses ang mga (Additional nurses were hired by the) local government units (LGUs), especially those with the highest cases like Antipolo and Lipa to ensure that the vaccination will continue until September. There are routine immunizations in health centers every Wednesdays, twice a day,” he said.

Janairo added some LGUs extended their health center hours until 6 p.m. daily to accommodate children of working mothers.

“Antipolo, for example, they extended until Saturday for two months to vaccinate all children and their health education officers teach the mothers about the benefits of vaccination,” he added. (PNA)