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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 7) — The Department of Health (DOH) announced that the measles outbreak has spread to more areas in Luzon and Visayas following reports of more than 1,500 cases and 26 deaths. It earlier declared the outbreak of this highly infectious disease in Metro Manila and Central Luzon.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque announced that a measles outbreak has also been declared in CALABARZON, Region 6 (Western Visayas) and Region 7 (Central Visayas). CALABARZON reported 104 cases of measles and nine deaths while Region 6 recorded 104 cases and three deaths linked to measles. In Region 7, 71 measles cases and one death was recorded.

Duque also noted an alarming increase of measles cases in Ilocos Region, Cagayan Valley, MIMAROPA and Bicol region.

"We are expanding the outbreak from Metro Manila to other regions as cases have increased in the past weeks and to strengthen surveillance if there are new cases and alert mothers and caregivers to be more vigilant," Duque told the press Thursday.

Here are the following figures for measles cases reported as of January 26, 2019:

CALABARZON: 575 cases, nine deaths

Metro Manila: 441 cases, five deaths

Region 3: 192 cases, four deaths

Region 6: 104 cases, three deaths

Region 7: 71 cases one death

MIMAROPA: 70 cases, no deaths

Region 1: 64 cases, two deaths

Region 10: 60 cases, no deaths

Region 8: 54 cases, one death

ARMM: 48 cases, no deaths

Region 12: 43 cases, no deaths

Region 11: 30 cases, no deaths

Bicol Region: 24 cases, one death

Zamboanga Peninsula: 22 cases, no deaths

Cagayan Valley: Eight cases, no deaths

Caraga Region: Four cases, no deaths

Cordillera Region: Three cases, no deaths

The DOH has not yet released the number of reported measles cases in other regions.

Measles is a highly contagious disease spread through coughing, sneezing and through close personal contact. The symptoms include red eyes, runny nose, fever and skin rashes for more than three to seven days. Complications include diarrhea, middle ear infection, pneumonia, swelling of the brain, malnutrition and blindness, which may lead to death.

DOH Epidemiology Bureau Director Ferchito Avelino explained that an outbreak or epidemic is declared once a disease is reported to be widespread in a region.

"Sa kasong, ito mawalakan 'yung kasi hindi lang confined sa isang probinsya, but rather several provinces are already involved," Avelino said.

[Translation: In this case the disease is widespread, and not confined in just one province, but rather several provinces are already involved.]

According to DOH records, the number of cases of measles in CALABARZON increased by 2,538%, from 575 cases in 2019 compared to 21 cases recorded in 2018. Nine of the cases this year resulted to deaths.

In Metro Manila, there were 441 cases of measles with five reported deaths this year, a 1,125% increased compared to its 2018 figure of 36 cases in 2018.

Central Luzon has 192 cases and four deaths in 2019, a 500% increase compared to 32 cases in the region in 2018, while Region 6 has 104 cases and three deaths, a 550% increase from 16 cases in 2018.

Meanwhile, Region 7 reported 71 cases and one death compared to two cases in 2018.

Duque urged parents to have their children vaccinated and to bring their children to health centers once the symptoms manifest.

The secretary said they are also conducting house-to-house visits to implement their supplemental immunization program to cater to unvaccinated children.

Don't link to Dengvaxia

The health chief also assured parents that the vaccination available for measles is not similar to the Dengvaxia vaccine that figured in the controversial dengue immunization program in 2014.

"Iba ang isyu ng Dengvaxia. Iba ang mga bakuna natin na talagang ligtas, epektibo na naaayon sa pamantayan ng FDA (Food and Drug Administration), ng World Health Organization," Duque said.

[Translation: The Dengvaxia issue is different. Our vaccines are different. They are safe, effective and according to the standards of the FDA and World Health Organization.]

Immunization can save up to four million lives a year, he added.

The DOH reported that the numbers of unvaccinated children continue to rise. For the first three quarters of 2018, 960, 457 children have not received vaccination, a spike from its 2017 figure of 855,039.