BY SALMA KHALIK, Straits Times

A measles outbreak in the Philippines has infected 23 Singaporeans who had travelled there since January, said an alert from the Ministry of Health (MOH).

They are among 80 people here have come down with measles so far this year. This is high, given that the annual numbers were 46 and 38 respectively for the past two years.

But the risk of an outbreak here is low, said the MOH, as most people are vaccinated against this highly contagious disease.

It said that half the people who were infected here this year were young children who had missed their vaccination.

Symptoms of measles include a rash, cough, runny nose, red eyes and fever. About a third of people with measles suffer from some complication, such as pneumonia, ear infection that can lead to permanent loss of hearing, and inflammation of the brain lining that could cause convulsions.

Complications are more common in children under 5 years and in adults.

The Philippine Department of Health reported 15,683 suspected cases of measles from Jan 1 to Feb 15 this year. Of these, 3,434 were confirmed, and 23 deaths were reported as well.

Most of the confirmed cases in the Philippines were among unvaccinated children two years old and younger.

Singaporeans were not the only visitors who caught measles while in the Philippines.

Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Britain and the United States have also reported cases of measles in travellers returning from the Philippines.

The MOH alert said: “Persons travelling to the Philippines, including Filipinos living in Singapore who return to the Philippines for a home visit, are advised to be vaccinated, if they have not been vaccinated against measles, or not had measles before.”

It also advised parents to ensure that their young children receive two doses of MMR vaccination on time (first dose at 12 months and second dose at 15 to 18 months).

Pre-school children who have missed their two doses of measles vaccination should be vaccinated without delay, it said. So should unprotected adults in families caring for a baby.

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