After reporting more than 58,000 suspected and confirmed measles cases in 2014, including 110 fatalities, the Philippines saw only 201 suspected and confirmed cases during the first month of 2015, according to a recently published World Health Organization Measles-Rubella Bulletin.

Image/Howard the Duck
Image/Howard the Duck

The 33 lab-confirmed measles cases reported in January is a dramatic decrease compared to the 9,549 confirmed cases in January 2014. There were no deaths related to measles reported in January.

The measles outbreak in the Philippines last year was implicated in imported measles cases and outbreaks in a number of countries including the United States and Canada.

Other countries in the Western Pacific Region of the WHO with greater than 100 measles cases in Jan. 2015 include China (7866), Malaysia (218) and Vietnam (185).

Measles is a highly infectious illness that primarily affects the respiratory tract. It can be a severe disease complicated by pneumonia.

The illness is usually non-specific in the first two to four days and includes fever followed by conjunctivitis, a runny nose and cough.

A characteristic red blotchy rash appears two to seven days after the first onset of symptoms and begins on the face and upper neck, becomes generalized and lasts for four to seven days.

According to the WHO, Measles is one of the leading causes of death among young children even though a safe and cost-effective vaccine is available. In 2013, there were 145,700 measles deaths globally – about 400 deaths every day or 16 deaths every hour.

Measles vaccination resulted in a 75% drop in measles deaths between 2000 and 2013 worldwide. In 2013, about 84% of the world’s children received one dose of measles vaccine by their first birthday through routine health services – up from 73% in 2000.

During 2000-2013, measles vaccination prevented an estimated 15.6 million deaths making measles vaccine one of the best buys in public health.