Monday, January 10, 2011

Measles in the Philippines

On 5 January 2011 ProMed reported that 3 children have died and over 30 people have been hospitalized due to measles virus (a paramyxovirus of the genus "Morbillivirus") in the Southern Philippines. The epidemic hit Talaingod and Kapalong towns in Mindanao's Davao del Norte province as the region recovers from rain-induced flooding and landslides that have already killed 15 people. According the mayor of the Talaingod town, even the town's physician contracted the disease. He has recovered from the disease.

The measles epidemic in the Philippines emphasizes several issues of public health and epidemic control. First, the deficiency of vaccines in rural, underprivileged populations perpetuates suffering and death due to diseases that can be prevented with modern medicinal advances. In the case described above, not even the community physician had the resources to protect his or herself from infection. A global initiative to encourage vaccination for particularly virulent and contagious diseases should be implemented. Second, environmental disaster often precedes epidemics. Destruction, migration, and lifestyles changes induced by environmental disaster can create an environment where diseases can settle in human populations. Infectious diseases, especially highly contagious viruses like measles, can exploit human populations that are forced to congregate in the event of an environment disaster. Viruses seem to prey on the weak. Thus, stockpiling vaccines for diseases often associated with environmental disasters could reduce the risk of epidemics in the case of crisis.


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