The Department of Health (DOH) yesterday declared a national dengue epidemic as the number of patients of the mosquito-born disease continues to rise in different parts of the Philippines.
The announcement was done at a press conference by DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III, who said that declaring the epidemic is necessary to speed up the response of various local governments in the country, reported ABS-CBN News.
“It is important that a national epidemic be declared in these areas to identify where a localized response is needed and to enable the local government units to use their quick response fund to address the epidemic situation,” Duque said.
According to a post that appeared on the DOH’s Facebook page, there have been 146,062 dengue cases in the country from January to July, which is 98 percent higher than the number of patients in the same period last year.
In the week of July 14 to 20 alone, there were 10,502 cases, 71 percent higher than the number of patients in the same period in 2018. There have been 622 dengue-related deaths in the entire Philippines as of July 20 this year, said the DOH in a separate statement.
Region VI (Western Visayas) has the most number of patients in the entire country, with 23,330 cases based on data released by the DOH. It is followed by Region IV-A (CALABARZON) with 16,515; Region IX (Zamboanga Peninsula) with 12,317; Region X (Northern Mindanao) with 11,455; and Region XII (SOCCSKSARGEN) with 11,083 cases.
The DOH also announced the launch of its anti-dengue campaign yesterday called Sabayang 4-O’clock Habit para Deng-Get Out (United 4-O’clock Habit to wipe out Dengue) where schools, communities, and local governments are encouraged to search and destroy mosquitoes’ breeding grounds. The DOH will release guidelines to remind those concerned to make the activity a regular practice in their areas, reported Rappler.
Duque also encouraged Filipinos to continue to practice what the DOH calls the “4S” for dengue prevention:
- Search and destroy mosquito-breeding sites
- Self-protection measures
- Seek early consultation
- Support fogging for impending outbreaks
Several towns and provinces have already declared a state of calamity due to the rising number of dengue patients in their areas, such as Zamboanga Sibugay, Cavite, South Cotabato, Leyte, and Eastern Samar. By declaring a state of calamity, the local governments were able to use their calamity funds to combat the disease, reported The Philippine Daily Inquirer.
Last month, the DOH declared a dengue alert in several regions due to the rapid increase of patients in those areas.
Dengue is a disease spread by female mosquitoes most commonly of the species Aedes aegypti but, to a lesser extent, of the Ae. albopictusspecies as well, according to the World Health Organization.
Mainly found in tropical climates, dengue has no specific treatment. Its symptoms can last up to seven days and include fever, nausea, rashes, aches, and pains.
Dengue is a hot topic in the Philippines due to the controversy generated by the anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia. It was included in the government’s vaccination program launched in 2016 and some 800,000 school children were immunized with it. In 2017, Public Attorney’s Office chief Persida Acosta alleged that Dengvaxia caused hundreds of children to die, a claim rejected by Duque and other health experts. The vaccine scare caused many parents to not get their children immunized, which led to a measles outbreak earlier this year.
The Philippines’ Food and Drug Administration banned the vaccine in February because manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur allegedly disregarded the government’s rules and regulations.
Early this month, the group Doctors for Truth and Public Welfare, an organization composed of Filipino doctors, urged the government to lift its ban on Dengvaxia amid the rising number of dengue cases in the country. Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said that the government is open to making the vaccine available again as long as it proves to be beneficial for Filipino patients.