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CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – The number of influenza-like illnesses dramatically surged by 41.31% in Northern Mindanao during the first eight months of the year compared to the same period in 2022, data from the Department of Health (DOH) showed.
Bukidnon province registered the highest number of cases at 8,002, a significant increase of 74.79% from January to August compared to the 4,578 cases it had in 2022.
Coming in a distant second is Misamis Oriental with 3,000 cases. However, of all the provinces in Northern Mindanao, only Misamis Oriental showed a reduction, dropping from 3,246 cases during the January to August period in 2022 to 3,000 cases this year, a -7.58% decrease.
Iligan City registered a surge of 26.16% in the number of influenza-like illnesses, rising from 2,133 in 2022 to 2,691 this year.
Neighboring Misamis Occidental marked a 69.42% surge in the number of influenza-like illnesses, reaching 2,621 cases from 1,547 in 2022.
Lanao del Norte saw a 32.48% increase in influenza-like illness cases this year compared to the same period in 2022, with the province registering 1,338 cases, up from 1,010 cases last year.
In 2022, the island province of Camiguin had only 44 cases from January to August. During the same period this year, it registered 110 cases, marking a 150% surge.
In Cagayan de Oro, City Health Officer Rachel Dilla told Rappler that they documented 425 influenza-like illness cases during the first eight months of the year, an increase from the 383 cases in 2022.
“We don’t have data for those who went to private physicians or those who took home medications,” she said.
Meanwhile, Cagayan de Oro City Schools Division Superintendent Roy Angelo Gazo delegated the decision to the school heads of the city on whether to revert to online classes or suspend classes altogether.
Based on the minutes of a meeting on September 27, Gazo instructed the School Governance Operations Division to assess the current situation in their schools and determine if classes should be suspended.
Gazo told the school heads to base their response on Department Order 37-2022, signed by Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte on September 1, 2022. The order aims to “minimize the health and safety risks brought about by disasters and other natural calamities. The department recognizes that the suspension of classes and work during emergencies remains necessary to uphold the physical and mental well-being of learners and school personnel.”
“School heads shall provide necessary steps on how to respond to the queries of the parents and guardians,” Gazo said.
However, the city schools division has not postponed its red-letter days for the month, such as World Teachers’ Day and the National Learning Camp.
“Division personnel will still monitor the said activities, including the nurses assigned in the District,” Gazo said in the meeting.
On September 27, Gazo issued Division Memorandum 180 that recommended the following:
- Wearing face masks in crowded or poorly ventilated spaces for the elderly, individuals with comorbidities, immunocompromised individuals, pregnant women, unvaccinated individuals, and symptomatic individuals.
- Practicing good hygiene, frequent hand washing, and ensuring good ventilation.
- Discouraging the borrowing of eating or drinking utensils.
- Ensuring food is cooked properly.
- Consulting a health facility if cough, colds, and fever persist.
- Sanitizing hands with 70% isopropyl alcohol.
- Conducting school or classroom disinfection, if needed.
On Tuesday, September 26, Liceo de Cagayan University, Xavier University, Lourdes College, and Corpus Christi School each issued notices about their decision to revert to online classes for their basic education courses due to the increasing number of influenza-like illnesses.
“To avoid contamination by the new Nipah virus, all basic education classes (Kindergarten to Grade 12) will have their online classes effective [September 27] until further notice,” read one memorandum issued by Alain Marc Pelaez Golez, president of Liceo de Cagayan University.
The other schools followed suit on the same day that Liceo de Cagayan University issued its memorandum. However, the other schools did not mention the Nipah virus.
Cagayan de Oro Division Medical Officer Mark Meso III told Rappler on Wednesday, September 27, that their hands are tied until laboratory results point to the Nipah virus as the cause of the increase in influenza-like illnesses.
“Before we can conclusively identify the Nipah virus, we need laboratory tests,” he said.
“It looks like a common flu virus, but it just spreads way too fast,” said Meso.
He said one barangay alone, Pagatpat, registered 19 influenza-like illness cases in just about 24 hours. – Rappler.com