Philippine Measles Deaths Top Last Year – And 2.6M Kids Are At Risk

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Philippine Measles Deaths Top Last Year – And 2.6M Kids Are At Risk
Measles deaths are increasing at an alarming rate in the Philippines.
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The Philippines is in the middle of a measles outbreak, and so far more people have died this year than all of 2018.

261 Filipinos have died of the disease since January, compared to 202 deaths last year. And that 2018 number isn't normal – that's more than five times what was recorded in 2017.

Most of the deaths were children under 5 years old, and according to the Philippines Red Cross, 2.6 million kids are still at risk.

Measles cases have been on the rise in the Philippines due to a major vaccine controversy over the past three years. In 2016, the Philippine government ran a program to vaccinate a million children to combat dengue, a serious mosquito-borne illness. But the next year, the manufacturer disclosed that the vaccine could, in some cases, actually make the illness worse. 

Although the program was shut down, public distrust led to a sharp decline in vaccinations altogether. 

Lack of vaccination is especially risky when it comes to measles. The CDC says the virus is so contagious that if one person has it, 90 percent of the people in close contact to that person who are not immune will also become infected.  

The Philippines Red Cross has partnered with the country's Department of Health to vaccinate all children in the most affected regions. The chairman of the organization said, "The Red Cross will not stop until we reach 100-percent vaccination coverage."

Additional reporting from Newsy affiliate CNN.