By Dr. Celeste Gomez
Q: Dear Doc Celeste, I just heard that there is a “measles outbreak” in Metro Manila. Is it true that measles is airborne? I’m so scared because my 6-month-old baby boy hasn’t had his shot yet. What can I do to prevent him from having measles? – Scared Mommy Carmen
A: Hello, Mommy Carmen! There is currently a huge increase of measles cases all over Metro Manila and Central Luzon. The Department of Health (DOH) has already considered and announced it as an outbreak.
Measles or rubeola is a virus that may be caught by a susceptible child or adult via airborne transmission. Airborne transmission can mean any of the following:
1. The virus can be carried by the dust suspended in the air.
2. It can stay or remain in a room for longer periods of time.
3. The virus can be disseminated widely to people in the same room.
Signs and symptoms
When a child is infected with measles, one can have high fever together with cough, colds and red teary eyes. The rashes may start to appear at the face and head. As days go by, it slowly goes down to the feet while you notice the rashes at the head begin to brown and peel off. Some children, especially those who are immunocompromised or who have malnutrition, are more prone to getting complications like measles pneumonia and encephalitis.
If sick with measles
In case your child has already been exposed to someone infected with measles, it is best to get a measles vaccine such as Monovalent Measles (MM), Measles and Rubella (MR), or Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) as post-exposure prophylaxis within 72 hours. If your child develops the measles virus, make sure you isolate your child from those who are not immune to the virus or not vaccinated. Avoid going to crowded places like malls. Your pediatrician will give your child the proper dose of Vitamin A supplement according to his age, and advice proper supportive therapy depending on the case on hand.
Protect and prevent
Preventing transmission of sickness is usually through protective barriers like masks, gloves, proper hand washing or using of hand sanitizers if one has direct contact with sick people. However, the BEST way to prevent an airborne disease like measles and other airborne diseases is through VACCINATION.
The Pediatric Infectious Disease Society of the Philippines already came out with vaccination guidelines for any measles outbreak:
1. Doctors may give the measles vaccine (monovalent measles or MR, MMR) to infants starting at age 6 months instead of the usual 9 months of age, as previously recommended.
2. For children who already received the first dose of measles vaccine at less than 12 months old, 2 additional booster doses are needed at least4 weeks apart, starting at 1 year old. If you are unsure of your vaccination status, please visit your local health center or your pediatrician so they can advice the proper catch-up vaccine needed.
Dr. Celeste Gomez, M.D., DPPS is a Visiting Consultant in The Medical City and an Active Consultant in Victor R. Potenciano Medical Center. A graduate of the University of the Philippines, College of Medicine, she is currently a Diplomate of the Philippine Pediatric Society. As a member of the IFM with a medical background, Dr. Celeste balances conventional medicine with appropriate and in-depth personal nutritional and lifestyle advice. She enjoys regular tennis sessions, swimming, and windsurfing.