Province health exec declares dengue outbreak
Kristine B. Quintas, May B. Miasco (The Freeman) - October 7, 2016 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines - An "abnormal" increase in dengue cases observed throughout Cebu Province since the second quarter of this year has led an official of the Provincial Health Office to declare a dengue outbreak yesterday.

"We have dengue outbreak because the number of cases is more than the previous. There is an unusual increase of cases and more people are getting sick," said Dr. Niño Ismael Pastor, PHO chief on public health.

Pastor added the declaration of an outbreak is based on the epidemiological and operational problems.

Records of the Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (RESU) showed 6,808 cases of dengue in Cebu province, including the cities of Cebu, Mandaue, and Lapu-Lapu, from January to September this year compared to only 2,834 last year for the same period.

This means, there was an increase of 3,974 or 140 percent higher.

"This is a relative quantity compared to the previous rate. It is an outbreak and it is abnormal," Pastor said during yesterday's third quarter meeting of the Provincial Risk Reduction and Management Council.

Pastor warned the public to be extra vigilant as dengue cases are expected to increase during these rainy months.

Cebu's dengue cases form part of the total cases in Central Visayas which posted a dramatic increase; 14,846 compared to last year's 6,420 cases.

 There were 125 deaths from January 1 to September 24 this year, compared to only 36 deaths last year. Of the 125 deaths, 67 were from Cebu province, including the cities of Cebu, Lapu-Lapu and Mandaue. In 2015, only 18 deaths were reported for Cebu.

There was an increase of 8,426 cases or 131 percent higher region-wide.

According to the report, Cebu City posted the highest number of cases, with 2,024 and 13 deaths, almost double last year's cases with 1,077 and eight deaths.

Mandaue City followed with 658 cases and 13 deaths; Toledo with 545 and four deaths; Balamban 459 with two deaths and; Lapu-Lapu City with  439 cases and eight deaths.

Carcar City recorded a total of 376 cases; Liloan, 338 cases and four deaths; Talisay City, 317 cases and five deaths; Consolacion, 303 cases and three deaths; Danao City, 239 cases and three deaths; San Fernando, 237 cases and one death; Cordova, 220 cases and five deaths; Naga, 204 cases and one death; Minglanilla, 199 cases and one death; and Medellin, 183 cases and four deaths.

Most of the dengue victims were 10 years old and below.

Pastor said the rise of dengue case is quite alarming but people should not be worried about it because they will contain it as soon as possible. 

Provincial Board Member  Christopher Baricuatro moved to declare the dengue outbreak as a "disaster or calamity," during yesterday's meeting. The move was later approved by the council.

However, it would still be submitted to the Provincial Board for its deliberation and approval. If passed, the provincial disaster office can set aside part of its budget to fund the mitigating plans and operations of the PHO to counter the increasing number of dengue cases.

Pastor admitted that the outbreak is already beyond their capacity and they can no longer cope in mitigating the cases because the local government units are also no longer supporting their operations.

"Our resources are already depleting. Our misting team is no longer responding effectively. The sanitary inspectors of the LGUs kaniadto motabang pa karon na burnout na. This is already beyond our capacity kay pila ra man intawon mi sa Capitol," he said.

He said only two of four misting equipment are still functioning, saying they need more equipment and manpower. A misting machine costs over P50,000. He said a misting team, composed of at least five people can only cover about 3,000 square meters a day and the mist only lasts up to six hours.

Because of lack of equipment and manpower, Pastor said they have been prioritizing areas with more reported mortalities.

The Department of Health is recommending to search and destroy mosquito breeding sites and the cleanup of mosquito breeding places; however, they have not recommended indiscriminate fogging.

The public is also advised to use personal protective measures such as using mosquito nets, install window screens, or applying insect repellant lotion.

Today, different government agencies and local governments are set to meet to discuss the province-wide cleanup operations.

He said they will also determine next week whether or not the misting and larvicidal interven-tions are effective, so that they can come up with other methods. They have allocated P2 million since January this year for the said intervention.

 Governor Hilario Davide III said PHO can utilize some of the unused fund of the disaster office. At present, the province has P46.83 million left in its coffers that can still be utilized for any disasters and emergency response operations.

Dengue hemorrhagic fever is a manifestation of an acute infectious disease transmitted by the Aedes aegypti, a day-biting mosquito that lays eggs in clear and stagnant water stored in flower vases, cans, rain barrels, old rubber tires, and other receptacles.  Adult mosquitoes rest in dark places of the house, a health advisory states.

What outbreak?

Meanwhile, Rennan Cimafranca, head of DOH-7 Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit, said yesterday that he had no idea of the declaration.

He also refused to comment about the PHO's announcement since he also does not know the reason for declaring the outbreak and the basis of its data collection.

"We will also ask them why they declare the province under outbreak and why we were not informed about it," he said.

He pointed out that one cannot easily declare a certain province, municipa-lity or city under a dengue outbreak since the declaration should start typically from the lowest level or at the barangays.

"As per protocol, we should base it first on the barangay level. We should look at first the lowest level," he said.

He explained that it would be unfair for other lower local government units such as the barangays, cities or municipalities to be covered under the province-wide declaration if some of them have less dengue incidence due to their strong campaign in combating the mosquito population.

"It would be unfair for the municipalities or cities that poured hard work on their campaign when other places did not show concern," he said.  (FREEMAN)

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