EDITORIAL — Dengue warning

The Philippine Star
EDITORIAL � Dengue warning

Even as the COVID threat persists, another illness is causing hospitalizations and deaths. From January to June 1 this year, the Department of Health has recorded 70,498 dengue cases nationwide, with 197 deaths. DOH officials warn that the cases, which had been declining, were starting to plateau and could spike with the onset of the wet season. In the three weeks before June 1, the DOH recorded an increase in dengue cases in the Cordilleras, the Ilocos region, Zamboanga peninsula, Cagayan Valley, Caraga, Mimaropa and Northern Mindanao.

The measures recommended by health experts for dengue prevention remain the same. Foremost is the eradication of potential breeding grounds for mosquitoes that carry the dengue virus. These are mainly pools of stagnant water, which proliferate during the rainy season. There is some debate about the usefulness of fogging to kill adult mosquitoes, but for lack of other measures, many local government units use fogging to reduce the risk of dengue.

Insect repellents are widely available commercially, but their prices are beyond the reach of millions of households. If the government wants to boost the prevention of mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue and chikungunya, an affordable mosquito repellent must be developed and mass-produced.

Medical professionals continue to recommend the Dengvaxia vaccine for those with a history of laboratory-confirmed dengue, especially minors aged 9 to 16. The hysteria over the introduction of Dengvaxia in the country, however, soured many Filipinos not only to the anti-dengue vaccine but also to immunization in general. The vaccine hesitancy affected the government’s immunization campaign for measles and polio plus several other preventable but potentially deadly childhood diseases, and complicated the rollout of vaccines against COVID.

In several developing countries where dengue is endemic, people are encouraged to use mosquito nets. Aid agencies donate nets treated with insect repellent to indigent communities. Clean surroundings also deprive mosquitoes of breeding grounds. With schools currently out in the Philippines, education authorities can use the vacation period to thoroughly clean school premises and improve ventilation.

Scientists are currently working on better vaccines against dengue as well as the possible deployment of genetically altered mosquitoes that will kill Aedes aegypti, the mosquito that carries the viruses for dengue, yellow fever, chikungunya, Zika fever and Mayaro. Until the products of the research get expert approval and are rolled out, humans can only resort to preventive measures. Simply getting rid of stagnant water and keeping premises clean can save people from dengue debilitation and possible death.

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