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Measles outbreak in Philippines kills 136 as country grapples with vaccine hesitancy

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MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine health secretary says 136 people, mostly children, have died of measles and 8,400 others have been sickened in an outbreak blamed partly on recent vaccination fears.

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Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said Monday a massive immunization drive that started last week in hard-hit Manila and four provincial regions may contain the outbreak by April. President Rodrigo Duterte warned in a TV message Friday of fatal complications and urged children to be immunized. The outbreak began in January.

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Duque said a government information drive is helping restore public trust in the government’s immunization program, which was marred in 2017 by an anti-dengue vaccine made by French drugmaker Sanofi which was blamed for the deaths of at least three children.

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Filipino doctors treat a child who is suffering from measles at a government hospital in Manila, Philippines, 07 February 2019. The Philippines health department declared a measles outbreak in Metro Manila and Central Luzon. At least 55 deaths have been recorded since 01 January, mostly children under the age of four, health secretary Francisco Duque III said.
Filipino doctors treat a child who is suffering from measles at a government hospital in Manila, Philippines, 07 February 2019. The Philippines health department declared a measles outbreak in Metro Manila and Central Luzon. At least 55 deaths have been recorded since 01 January, mostly children under the age of four, health secretary Francisco Duque III said. EPA/FRANCIS R. MALASIG

Measles outbreaks have been turning up around the globe, in parts of Europe and Africa to across North America.

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Vancouver grapples with measles outbreak
Vancouver grapples with measles outbreak

A recent outbreak in B.C. — centered around elementary schools — has sickened “several” people. Dozens have fallen ill in Washington state, prompting a surge of vaccinations in the area.

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The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the anti-vaccination movement one of 2019’s top 10 health threats, saying that measles cases have risen globally by 30 per cent, though not all of these cases are attributable to vaccine hesitancy.

— With files from Global News