Dengue cases still on the rise — Duque

Sheila Crisostomo - The Philippine Star
Dengue cases still on the rise â Duque
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said five regions have exceeded the epidemic threshold when he made the declaration last July 15. These are Regions 4A, 5, 6, 8 and 9.
KJ Rosales

MANILA, Philippines — Two weeks after the National Dengue Alert was declared by the Department of Health (DOH), the number of mosquito-borne disease is still increasing.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said five regions have exceeded the epidemic threshold when he made the declaration last July 15. These are Regions 4A, 5, 6, 8 and 9.

Even Mimaropa (Mindoro-Marinduque-Romblon-Palawan), Regions 10 and 12 and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao are reporting cases significantly higher than in previous years.

“As of July 6, the count is 115,986 dengue cases but it is still going up, compared to 62,286 cases or about 85 percent higher,” Duque told “The Chiefs” on Cignal TV’s One News late Monday.

Based on latest data from DOH, there are 130,463 dengue cases – including 561 deaths – from Jan. 1 to July 13.

During the same period in 2018, the DOH had documented only 67,690 cases, including 367 deaths. 

Duque noted that dengue cases spike every three years, not only in the Philippines but also in other Asian countries as well, citing a recent pronouncement of World Health Organization Country Representative Gundo Weiler.

“He (Weiler) could not explain because it is a phenomenon but he suggests it is probably because of rapid urbanization, climate change or change in weather. Canada and Portugal have reported dengue and who would have imagined these countries (having dengue),” he added.

Duque said Iloilo province is the hardest hit but this could change anytime.  

“It could be Iloilo today, it could be another province tomorrow. Remember, we still have five months to go but hopefully the Iloilo count goes down but we are not sure about the other provinces going up,” he said.

Dengue strains

In a separate interview, DOH Undersecretary Eric Domingo said they are eyeing the circulation of an uncommon dengue strain as the reason for the increasing cases. 

Domingo added they have observed that “Dengue 3” is the “most predominant” strain circulating in the country this year.

This means that more people could get sick with the mosquito-borne disease this year because the most common strains of dengue in circulation in the past are Dengue 1 and 2.

“In the past years, few cases are caused by Strain 3 not only in the Philippines but also in other countries in Asian region as well. This means that not many people have immunity to this strain so we can really see more cases,” he added.

There are four dengue strains and those who get infected with a particular strain get lifetime immunity from it. This means that an individual has four chances of contracting dengue in a lifetime.

DOH records showed of the 454 laboratory-confirmed cases this year, Dengue 3 accounted for 321 cases or 71 percent.

Dengue 1 and 2 have infected 66 and 59 individuals, respectively, while only six cases were caused by Dengue 4 with two patients tested positive for both Dengue 1 and 2.  

The war against dengue

Taking note of the increasing number of dengue cases, lawmakers vowed to allot more funds for the DOH’s anti-dengue campaign.

Congressmen made the promise during a meeting with Duque called by Majority Leader Martin Romualdez. Several congressmen from dengue-affected provinces attended the meeting yesterday.

“All the congressmen present agreed to help Secretary Duque get more budget for the anti-dengue campaign. Our health department deserves all the support from Congress if we are to win the war against dengue,” Romualdez said.

He said his own Samar-Leyte region is one of the areas where there is an increase in dengue cases.

“We are very fortunate that Secretary Duque is here. He has endeavored to support each and every congressman’s requirements to stave off the increase or the spike of the scourge not just through informative talks and discussions, but with actual concrete initiatives to support in addressing the problem,” Romualdez said.

He added Duque “was candid enough to solicit the support of everyone in the fight against the affliction, since there is yet no medicine to cure it.”

“Only through community effort can we win the war against dengue,” Romualdez stressed.

He said Duque committed to help dengue patients in the provinces get medical care in government hospitals.

Duque advised congressmen to encourage local government units to enter into agreements with public and private hospitals in order to widen the reach of medical assistance provided by the health department.

Aside from financial support, Duque also promised to make available machines and chemicals needed by local government units (LGUs) for mosquito fogging operations in their areas.

“We agree with Secretary Duque. The best way to fight dengue is to search and destroy mosquito-breeding places. At the forefront of this campaign is still the LGU,” Romualdez added.

A children’s welfare organization also called on local health authorities to intensify their respective anti-dengue initiatives following the drastic increase in the number of cases recorded nationwide.

Save the Children Philippines chief executive officer Albert Muyot stressed the need for regular cleanliness drives and intensified information campaigns to address the increase of dengue cases.

“We appeal to local governments to strengthen measures to prevent spread of dengue virus in their communities through cleanup drives and raising awareness of parents on early signs of dengue, particularly among children,” he said.

Save the Children said most of those affected were children aged six to nine years old.

The group raised concern on the increase of cases by more than 280 percent in Western Visayas, while provinces in Albay and Zamboanga City also reported drastic increases in the number of dengue cases.

Muyot said children are the most affected by the dengue virus because they are physically fragile and exposed to mosquitoes carrying dengue virus while in schools and at play in communities.

The group said it works with health officers in deprived communities in Caloocan, Navotas and Malabon to improve health and nutrition of children. 

Similar programs are also being implemented in conflict-affected areas in Mindanao.

Amado Parawan, health and nutrition advisor of Save the Children Philippines, advised mothers and parents not to ignore early signs of dengue, including high fever.

“Any case of fever should be reported,” he said, emphasizing that “early consultation is the key to saving lives during a dengue outbreak.”

Parawan advised the public to follow the DOH campaign against dengue.    –  With Jess Diaz, Janvic Mateo

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