Recently, the Philippines experienced a measles outbreak in at least nine of its cities in Metro Manila. According to the National Epidemiology Center (NEC) of the Department of Health, there were more than 1,700 cases, including 21 deaths that were recorded last year.

Measles is a highly contagious disease that can be spread through coughing, sneezing, close personal contact or direct contact with an infected person. It is so contagious that an infected person who has not yet shown signs of a rash can already spread the disease. The virus also stays in the air or on infected surfaces for up to two hours, which means that people can still get measles even after the infected person has already left the room.

Despite the availability of a vaccine, the World Health Organization (WHO) still ranks measles as one of the leading causes of death among young children worldwide. In 2012, the WHO said around 122, 000 people died from measles. Most of them were children under the age of five.

The following are the signs and symptoms of measles:

  • High fever – begins about 10 to 12 days after exposure to the virus, and lasts four to seven days
  • Runny nose
  • Cough
  • Red and watery eyes
  • Small white spots inside the cheeks which can develop in the initial stage
  • Rashes that spreads from the face to the hands and feet – lasts for five to six days

In unfortunate cases, measles can lead to death or serious complications such as blindness, encephalitis (an infection that causes brain swelling), severe diarrhea and related dehydration, ear infections, or severe respiratory infections such as pneumonia. Children under the age of five, adults over the age of 20, as well as unvaccinated pregnant women are more at risk to develop these complications.

Unfortunately, measles is still common in developing countries such as the Philippines. Lack of information on disease prevention puts these countries at risk for an epidemic, which will lead to many deaths.

Leading health care provider PhilCare said that there is no need to put the lives of our loved ones, especially our children at risk. Measles can be prevented and eradicated in the country through vaccination.

Here are some life-saving facts from PhilCare which individuals, especially parents can take note of when considering getting an anti-measles vaccine.

Fact 1: Measles can be prevented with a safe and effective vaccine.

Fact 2: The risk of death from measles is higher for infants and adults than for children.

Fact 3: Measles is contagious from 4 days before until 4 days after the rash disappears.

Fact 4:  The MMR (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella) is a safe and effective vaccine against measles. Its side effects are usually mild and uncommon.

Fact 5:  It is recommended that children get the MMR in two doses—the first dose at 12 through 15 months of age and the second dose before entering school at 4 through 6 years of age.