Sabah on alert for measles after Philippine crisis but says matters in hand

In Sabah, the measles vaccine is given to children as early as six months, followed by nine and 12 months. Another booster is given at seven years of age. — AFP pic
In Sabah, the measles vaccine is given to children as early as six months, followed by nine and 12 months. Another booster is given at seven years of age. — AFP pic

KOTA KINABALU, Feb 14 — Sabah health authorities said only three local measles cases have been detected following a deadly outbreak in the Philippines, assuring the public there was no cause for concern.

Sabah Health and Public Well-being Minister Datuk Stephen Wong said the cases reported as of February 9 all involved unvaccinated children between one and six years old, two of whom were foreigners.

“But I don’t think there is much to worry about. There is only a few cases and the Health department is monitoring the areas with high incidence of measles,” he said.

“This year so far is a reduction of 40 per cent compared to the same period in 2018,” he said when speaking to reporters at an event here to launch his ministry’s website.

In 2018, 73 cases were reported in children between two to seven years’ old, including one death. Most were local, and only 15 per cent of the total number of cases had received some form of immunisation. 

Kudat, in northern Sabah, had the most cases at 30, followed by Semporna with 21 and Kota and Tawau with four cases each.

In Sabah, the measles vaccine is given to children as early as six months, followed by nine and 12 months. Another booster is given at seven years of age.

In areas known for high incidence of measles, the department runs supplementary immunisation activities such as giving an additional booster shot to those six years and below.

“Those in high-risk areas, the booster is also extended to children up to 17 years of age.

“This is to ensure the immune clusters are achieved and break the contagion quickly. Parents of children who were left out of the immunisation programmes are urged to seek treatment from any health clinics in their area,” said the report.

Sabah’s neighbour country, the Philippines, is currently battling an outbreak of measles after more than 4,000 cases and 70 deaths have been reported mostly in metropolitan Manila in early February but has since expanded it across other areas on the islands of Luzon and the Visayas.

Cases have increased 122 per cent compared with the same period last year.

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