A measles outbreak has been declared in Davao City after it was reported there were more than 200 suspected cases, 17 confirmed cases and four deaths attributed to viral infectious disease.

The age of fatalities ranged from four months to two years, while 16 of the confirmed cases were call centre agents, according to Dr Josephine Villafuerte, chief of the City Health Office.

Measles is a highly contagious disease, which presents with high fever, runny nose, cough and small white spots developing inside the cheeks. Rash appears two weeks after exposure.

The number of cases has risen since January 6. Health officials noted some factors which possibly contributed to the increase.

“We know there are more than 400 families who evacuated to Davao City from outside... many from Marawi. That’s one matter they saw,” said Dr Villafuerte. Other factors include the children’s nutrition and immunity.

As for the immunization status of the children, about half of the suspected cases received no vaccination. Of the 224 cases, 119 were not vaccinated.

“Our coverage is quite low. We’re only hovering at 37 percent in the whole region,” said DOH Southern Mindanao director Abdullah Dumama during a radio interview.

Director Dumama acknowledged that the outbreak is a cause of alarm because deaths have been reported.

Reasons for non-vaccination include the mother’s busy schedule, sickness at the time of vaccination, while others just completely forgot about the immunization schedule, and even ‘religious belief,’ according to the director.

“We’re asking the public not to turn down these programmes because the government is doing its best to eradicate measles,” said the director.

Dr Villafuerte said that about 13,000 children, between the ages of 5 months to 5 years, have received vaccination as part of their response to the outbreak.

Meanwhile, the local health department is conducting information campaign and teaching mothers what to look for in spotting the infection. MIMS