By Merlina Hernando Malipot
With the measles outbreak still active, the Department of Education (DepEd) has directed its officials and heads of both public and private schools nationwide to undertake “appropriate measures” to protect learners and prevent measles transmission in schools.
Education Secretary Leonor Briones, in DepEd Memorandum No. 47 series of 2019, enjoined all schools to take measures in the measles outbreak response and prevention of transmission in schools. She noted that the declaration of measles outbreak of the Department of Health (DOH) “calls for the emergency response from all government agencies” including the DepEd to “address the issue.”
Briones noted that measles is “an acute viral respiratory illness” and a “highly contagious disease” that “can be transferred from one person to another person by coughing, sneezing, and direct contact with infectious droplets.” Given the outbreak, she explained that DOH – in partnership with DepEd – shall “take appropriate measures to protect school-age children and prevent measles transmission in schools and during large scale school events.”
In line with this, Briones said that a Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) between DepEd and DOH has been “crafted to prevent transmission of measles to learners.” She noted that the “policy shall cover schoolchildren from Kindergarten to Grade 6 enrolled in public schools nationwide” as well as those who and those who are participating the Palarong Pambansa currently being held in Davao City until May 4.
Briones enjoined all regional directors, school division superintendents, and other school officials to “provide full support in the implementation of the JMC.” Meanwhile, health personnel are also “expected to coordinate with DOH regional and provincial health offices for this concern.” This activity, she added, “shall be monitored by the DOH and by the DepEd Central Office, regional and schools division offices.”
In February, the DOH declared measles outbreak in the National Capital Region (NCR) and Regions III, IV-A, VI, and X. Briones said that the JMC is part of the outbreak response initiated by the two agencies. Specifically, the JMC aims to “prevent transmission of measles and other infectious diseases in schools”; “provide guidelines on screening of students participating in school events”; and “provide guidelines on triaging and referral of measles cases in school events.”
In the guidelines, it was stated that “school teachers need to be alert in identifying possible measles cases to implement critical measures to stop the measles transmission.” School officials are directed to advise parents/guardians – whose children manifest flu-like symptoms – to “keep them at home and seek immediate medical attention.”
Learners are asked, “not to attend schools while sick to avoid further transmission and allow for further recovery.” School officials were also advised to “promptly isolate and refer the student with symptoms to the nearest facility/health center.”
“Standard precautions such as hand hygiene and respiratory hygiene/cough etiquette should be observed at all times” and school personnel should “immediately report the suspected measles case to the health center or rural health unit for proper case investigation.”
Meanwhile, principals were directed to “declare the suspension of classes for four (4) days in a particular classroom with a suspected measles case and with an established clustering of cases in the community.” A school-wide suspension for 4 days should be declared by the principal when more than 20 percent of the classrooms in kindergarten to grade 6 have suspected measles cases.
“Upon resumption of classes, students who shall remain symptomatic shall be advised not to report to school and the teacher should be vigilant in monitoring the health condition of their learners,” the guidelines stated. “Sick learners must be sent home,” it added.
Part of the prevention of transmission of the disease is the screening and vaccination of learners. However, DepEd stressed that “parental consent must be secured prior to the conduct of the vaccination.”
Earlier, DepEd announced that school opening in public schools will be on June 3, Monday.