DOH declares national dengue alert

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Department of Health (DOH) declared a National Dengue Alert on Monday, July 15, as dengue cases continued to rise in several regions in the country.

The health department said that the following regions had exceeded the epidemic threshold: Mimaropa, Western Visayas, Central Visayas, and Northern Mindanao. 

The following regions, meanwhile, have exceeded the alert threshold: Ilocos Region, Cagayan Valley, Calabarzon, Bicol, Eastern Visayas, Zamboanga Peninsula, Davao, Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, and Cordillera Administrative Region. 

The epidemic threshold is the the critical number of cases required for an epidemic to be declared. The alert threshold, meanwhile, is the number of cases that sounds an early warning for a potential epidemic. 

In the Philippines, the epidemic and alert thresholds for dengue vary from region to region, as computations take into account localised incidences of the disease within the last 3 to 5 years.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said 106,630 dengue cases had been reported from January 1 to June 29, 2019 – 85% more than the 57,564 cases reported from the same period in 2018.

Early detection, 4S strategy important

Duque emphasized that early detection is crucial in order to prevent deaths resulting from dengue. 

With 456 deaths as a result of dengue this year, the fatality ratio remains low at 0.4%. But with the health department's goal to bring the numbers down to less than 0.2%, it urged the public to observe the 4S strategy, which they say is the most effective way to prevent dengue. The strategy consists of the following:

Dengue is a mosquito-borne viral infection, contracted through a bite of Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes carrying the dengue virus.

These mosquitoes can lay eggs in spaces or containers that hold stagnant water – bottle caps, dish dryers, gutters, trash cans, old rubber tires. Even plant axils with stagnant water can be nests for dengue-infected mosquitoes. (READ: Is it or is it not dengue?)

Symptoms of dengue include sudden onset of fever for 2 to 7 days, along with two of the following: headache, body weakness, joint and muscle pains, pain behind the eyes, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and rashes.  

Health care providers and family members should also be on the lookout for patients whose fever comes back after dropping by at least 1°C or to almost normal between 3 and 6 days. Abdominal pain or tenderness, persistent vomiting, edema (swelling), lack of energy, and bleeding in the mouth or nose should also serve as warning signs. 

Duque explained that dengue cases have been observed to peak every 3-4 years. The last peak occurred in 2016. Given the pattern, the health department expects an increase in cases this year.

This rise in dengue cases comes as the health department continues to monitor the ongoing measles outbreak.

The DOH earlier said that it would only lift the declaration of the measles outbreak once it reaches its vaccination target of 95% or some 13 million people immunized. As of July 3, only 11% has been reached. (READ: EXPLAINER: When should one get vaccinated against measles) – Rappler.com