Dengue cases rise in Visayas, Mindanao
MANILA, Philippines – While the number of dengue cases in the country decreased over the year, Visayas and Mindanao are the exception to the overall trend.
The Department of Health (DOH) on Wednesday, July 31, reported a 7.7% drop in the cases of dengue from 67,339 in July 2012 to 62,156 today.
DOH Secretary Enrique Ona noted the significant decline of dengue cases in Luzon. In the National Capital Region, cases of the infectious disease went down by 69% based on DOH data. The region recorded the highest decline in the entire country.
The Visayas and Mindanao, however, reported a surge of dengue cases. The uptick was pegged at 53% in Visayas and 44% in Mindanao.
The DOH said the alarming figures outside of Luzon can be due to “higher amounts of precipitation” experienced in those areas during the first half of the year.
Dengue is a mosquito-borne disease frequently occurring in tropical and sub-tropical regions that may lead to lethal complications.
Loss of lives
Emily Divinagracia lost her brother to dengue in the 1980s.
“What it did was bring home the fact that those abstract morbidity and mortality figures… aren't abstract at all—that these are real people, leading real lives, whose illnesses affect real families,” she said.
In an e-mail to Rappler, Divinagracia recalled her brother’s sudden demise at the age of 27/
“After graduating from UP Law as the president of his class, passing the bar exams in the top 20, and working at the Supreme Court under then-Justice Irene Cortes, my brother John caught dengue fever and passed away from dengue hemorrhagic shock after 5 days in hospital,” she narrated.
Divinagracia herself took up medicine at the University of the Philippines (UP) Manila.
She said the virus-carrying mosquitoes could have come from anywhere–“water in pails, improperly-covered containers, long stagnant puddles because of rain, coupled with poor drainage.”
New treatment guidelines
This year, dengue fatalities dropped to 263 cases. The death toll is 40% lower than last year’s 435 during this same period.
The DOH said new treatment guidelines now focus on earlier replenishment of body fluids.
The health agency issues and updates clinical pathways – a standardized management of diseases – disseminated to doctors in public hospitals across the county.
Divinagracia who experienced the impact of the disease first-hand – during her brother’s death in the 80s and when she was diagnosed with dengue in 1997 – said early detection would help Filipino families.
“The sort of rapid screening tests available today weren't available 24 years ago, which means supportive therapy can be started much earlier than before,” she said.
Meanwhile, Ona said on Wednesday, July 31, that it was only a matter of time before the Chikungunya virus hit the Philippines. A surge of cases, he said, had already been reported in Thailand and Singapore last year.
“Chikungkunya is a viral disease similar to dengue,” the health secretary said. “Less ang chance of dying. However, mas matagal ang side effects (The chance of dying is less. However, the side effects last longer).”
The Philippine Star reported an outbreak of the disease in 10 Philippine municipalities.
The health chief added that sore muscles are often experienced even after one is healed.
“It is even difficult to differentiate it from an ordinary flu, except mas matindi ang (there is worse) muscle and joint pain,” he explained.
Ona encouraged local governments to step up their anti-dengue campaigns as more frequent rains will “herald increased mosquito population that thrive in stagnant water.”
The DOH is currently monitoring the Ovicidal-Larvicidal (OL) mosquito traps – an innovation introduced through a joint project with other government agencies – placed in schools and communities. (READ: Crowdsourcing dengue alert)
A habit of searching for and eliminating mosquito-breeding sites in local communities at least once a week was also launched by the DOH.
The strategy needs collective community efforts, with the searches routinely done 4 pm onwards. – Rappler.com
Mosquito image from Shutterstock